State senators to hold hearing on tollway leadership shuffling

For the third time in three years, state senators will scrutinize current Illinois tollway leaders regarding how they conduct business.

The focus at a hearing Tuesday is about tweaks to the chain of command that some lawmakers worry reflect a power struggle between Chairman Will Evans and Executive Director Jose Alvarez.

Tollway officials have denied there is any friction and said the changes are intended to improve efficiency. An agency spokesman declined to comment on Tuesday's session.

The tollway board in October gave Evans authority to reorganize departments and administrators' duties.

As a result, the agency's chief financial officer now reports to Evans as well as Executive Director Jose Alvarez. In addition, the chief procurement and compliance officer and the head of the information technology department were switched to report to the chief financial officer, not Alvarez.

Several suburban senators said they want to know who's on first at the organization.

"I am anxious to hear the chairman's rationale for why he felt this structure is the most optimal to ensure efficient use of taxpayer dollars and consumer money as well as transparency," Democratic Sen. Laura Murphy of Des Plaines said Monday.

In 2019, the Senate's Executive Appointments Committee questioned Evans about a conflict of interest in a vote two months after he was appointed to the position by Gov. J.B. Pritzker. Evans said the vote was inadvertent.

In August 2020, the Senate Transportation Committee called tollway officials to account for a ruling by a state regulator that the agency acted illegally regarding construction project bids. The tollway's attorney said the finding was unfair.

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