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The case of former volunteer J. B. Pritzker became a problem in the race of the general prosecutor

Company volunteer J. B. Pritzker in 2018, who was indicted last year for allegedly stealing from the Illinois State Police Committee, is now at the center of a campaign dispute over whether she should face additional charges — an issue that has rocked the race for attorney 8 November general.

But it may take a judge to determine the next step.

Republican challenger Thomas DeVore has accused Democratic Attorney General Kwame Raoul of hush-up about a potential fraud case to prevent Pritzker and other Democrats from further political embarrassment. But Raul insists that “there was no effort to hide anything” and that he declared a conflict of interest because other matters his office handles could be seen as affecting a potential fraud case.

“I have nothing to hide,” Raul said.

At the center of the political row is Jenny Thornley, the merit board’s former chief financial officer who was charged in September 2021 with her salary topped up with an additional $10,513 in unauthorized overtime. She pleaded not guilty in Sangamon County District Court to charges of theft, forgery and official misconduct.

Although the Thornleys have been charged in the case, DeVore claims there is enough evidence to file additional fraud charges over the tens of thousands of dollars spent on workers’ compensation and disability benefits she received. But DeVore argued that the case against Thornley was not moving forward because of Raoul’s ties to Democrats and Pritzker. The The tribune opened in December that Thornley was under scrutiny for receiving benefits and that a merit board memo noted that a senior insurance agency official viewed Thornley’s benefits collection as “a clear case of fraud.”

A spokeswoman for the insurance agency said the department “does not comment on pending workers’ compensation investigations.” Thornley’s attorney could not be reached for comment.

Raul disputes Devore’s position and says the attorney general’s office is fighting Thornley in other civil cases, including a federal civil lawsuit alleging she was wrongfully fired from her job on the merit board. Raul’s office said it is declining criminal prosecution because it doesn’t want to be in a position that could create even the appearance of using the criminal case against Thornley to settle a civil case or vice versa.

The appellate prosecutor of the State Prosecutor’s Office conducts the wage case. This comes after the Sangamon County State’s Attorney also recused himself because he is prosecuting a case in which a Thornley family member was allegedly the victim of a traffic accident.

The workers’ compensation questions arose because, just as an internal investigation into the wage allegations against her was winding down, Thornley said her boss sexually assaulted her. Pritzker became embroiled after it emerged that Thornley had been emailing Pritzker’s top aides and even writing to his wife, MK Pritzker, about the allegations. MK Pritzker wrote back to Thornley, “I’d rather not get involved” and advised Thornley to contact the administration and follow proper procedures.

An outside investigation found Thornley’s sexual assault allegations to be unfounded, but the state said last week it had paid more than $87,000 in her workers’ compensation case alone — including more than $63,500 in disability and nearly $21,000 in ” investigating her claim and determining that it was false.”

In an effort to compel Raul to act, DeVore sent a copy of a July 29 email from David Robinson, the chief appellate attorney, to the attorney general’s office. DeVore called for more action, noting the email shows the appellate attorney needs a court order expanding his authority to include Thornley’s benefits. Robinson did not respond to messages left for him.

But shortly after the email was sent, Raul said, his office reached out to both the state’s attorney and the appellate attorney. Rawle said appellate attorneys have indicated they want to “reserve the right” to use the workers’ compensation issue as an aggravating factor in the wage case or to charge Thornley in a separate case.

Raul called such an approach “perfectly appropriate” and logical, given that the appellate prosecutor is already handling the wage case. But Raul said his office would not weigh in on the decision “because we have a conflict. Plain and simple.”

How and when a potential benefit fraud case can move forward can have a legal road map due to different legal perspectives.

Special prosecutor Jonathan Barnard, who is handling the appellate prosecutor’s case in Thornley’s wage case, said his office would need a judge’s approval to handle any additional workers’ compensation issues. That would require a motion in court, such as from the state’s attorney, because an appellate prosecutor can’t expand his authority unless a judge agrees, Barnard said.

“That didn’t happen,” said Barnard, the former Adams County state’s attorney, adding, “Our meetings are case-by-case.”

Sangamon County State’s Attorney Dan Wright, a Republican who recused himself from Thornley’s original wage case, said he had seen nothing beyond the January memo about the workers’ allegations, but that he would recuse himself again when a real investigation into the alleged benefits fraud begins. The Thornleys were to come before him.

Ty Fanner, a former Republican attorney general, said one way to address the issue is to “let the courts figure it out” by asking a judge to determine who should handle or handle potential benefits fraud.

“Kwame could do it, the local state’s attorney could do it, the state legislator could come in and say, ‘Do your job,'” Fanner said, filing a motion to identify who is not doing the job they’re supposed to be doing.

In turn, Raoul referred to the statute on the appointment of attorneys and special prosecutors when there are conflicts, saying that “any person in interest can petition for the appointment of a special prosecutor. There is nothing to prevent the state appellate prosecutor handling this defendant from going to court to address the issue of benefits.

Retired attorney Gina DiVito, a Democrat who served on the Illinois Court of Appeals, agreed.

“If an appellate prosecutor needs authority to act,” DiVito said, “they have to make that request to a judge. It seems to me that this is such a simple request that they should fulfill it.”

In January, Pritzker’s Department of Central Management Services, which handles government payments, sent Raoul a memo summarizing Thornley’s case and concluding that “there was clearly no sexual assault,” according to a document obtained by the Tribune.

Most, if not all, of the more than $87,000 spent on the workers’ comp case does not include the roughly $550,000 the merit board spent on an outside investigation into Thornley’s sexual misconduct allegations as well as her wage case.






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