Evans out as tollway chairman, Pritzker names bank executive to replace him

  • Will Evans has resigned as chairman of the Illinois tollway.

    Will Evans has resigned as chairman of the Illinois tollway. Daily Herald File Photo

 
 
Updated 2/18/2022 3:37 PM

Embattled Illinois tollway Chairman Will Evans has resigned and will be replaced with a banking executive, officials said Friday.

Dorothy Abreu, a senior vice president at PNC Bank with 20 years of experience in financial services, is the agency's latest chairwoman, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said.

 

"I am confident ... her impressive work with government entities and nonprofit organizations will lend itself to continued growth and fiscal responsibility at the tollway," Pritzker said in a statement.

Abreu stated she wanted to strengthen "collaboration, equity and transparency."

"The tollway is a state-of-the-art system with hundreds of miles of roadways connecting millions of customers to work, family and their daily lives," she said. "I am eager to get to work to provide our customers with the experience they deserve."

In a statement, Evans said he looked forward to watching the tollway "continue to thrive and grow under Dorothy's leadership."

"Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic," he said, "the tollway is delivering projects on time and within budget."

Evans was appointed in early 2019 by Pritzker as part of a reform effort that included hiring Executive Director Jose Alvarez after an uproar over patronage concerns under the previous governor.

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But an apparent power struggle between the two men drew scrutiny from Illinois senators after a tollway reorganization instituted by Evans on Oct. 21, 2021, that was seen by some as impinging on Alvarez's powers to run day-to-day operations.

In late October, Evans fired two top executives and Alvarez allies who later criticized him for abusing his authority in hiring and firing staff and giving raises.

The Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus and House Black Caucus wrote Pritzker separately to complain of highhanded tactics by the chairman. Latino Caucus members said Evans had treated Alvarez unfairly. Black Caucus Chairman and Rep. Kam Buckner said the two executives, who are Black women, "were treated like criminals" after Evans sent Illinois State Police to their homes to collect tollway property.

On Dec. 7, the Senate Transportation Committee held a hearing into the reorganization where Evans asserted state law and tollway bylaws held that "my responsibility is to have general supervision over all power, duties, obligations and functions of the authority."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

A number of senators disagreed, suggesting a conflict of interest when the chairman has oversight of an agency that he is simultaneously running.

Des Plaines Democratic Sen. Laura Murphy, who called the situation "troubling" last year, wished Evans well and said she looked forward to working with Abreu to "ensure the tollway operates a fiscally responsible operation that is transparent and accountable."

Evans did not attend the December, January or February board meetings either in person or virtually.

Asked about his absence, a tollway spokesman said in January the chairman's mother was seriously ill.

"Chairman Evans led the tollway to historic progress and leaves behind a stronger, more accessible, and more equitable tollway system," Pritzker said in a statement. "I wish him all the best on his well-deserved retirement."

Abreu is a senior vice president in PNC's Corporate and Institutional Banking group, focusing on public institutions and nonprofits. She has worked on financing for projects to expand economic development and affordable housing, officials said.

Abreu has volunteered as president of the Latino Community Policy Forum and a board member for Chicago Habitat for Humanity.

The tollway chairman receives an annual stipend of $36,100.

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