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Corruption expert says ComEd patronage scandal comes with questions for taxpayers

In this Sept. 6, 2013 photo, a senior energy technician for Commonwealth Edison holds a standard electricity meter, left, and a new “smart” meter in North Riverside, Ill.

(The Center Square) – A professor who studies fraud and corruption said it is good for taxpayers to see the federal government take action to punish corruption in Illinois.

Inconsistent messages from Illinois leaders at the top, however, could diminish public confidence in how the state deals with official misconduct, he said.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois released a deferred prosecution agreement that requires Exelon subsidiary ComEd to pay $200 million for its role in a nearly decade-long patronage scandal designed to get favorable legislation passed in Springfield.

The charging documents don’t name Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, but they say “Public Official A” is the Illinois Speaker of the House, a role Madigan has been in for all but two years since 1983.

During an Illinois Commerce Commission hearing Wednesday, David Glockner, Exelon’s executive vice president for compliance and audit, said it was obvious the policies to prevent corruption didn’t work.

“But in retrospect, when it’s clear that those policies alone weren’t enough, interactions with public officials are an area where we need to give employees more detailed guidance,” Glockner said.

David Parker, director of the Center for the Study of Fraud and Corruption at Saint Xavier University, said it was good for taxpayers that ComEd was held accountable.

“If [ComEd] doesn’t hold up their end of the deal, they can always be prosecuted and all so this is a step for them to have a more robust compliance program,” Parker said.

The action against ComEd weakens the web of corruption in Illinois politics. Parker said.

Madigan has not been charged with a crime.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker was asked Wednesday to square up his comments urging some elected officials facing federal scrutiny to resign while giving Madigan the benefit of the doubt. Pritzker has said Madigan should resign if the implications about his role in the ComEd patronage scandal were true.

“Well, I have been clear that when there is a raid, when there is an indictment, I have called for people to step down from their positions or to resign,” Pritzker said. “So, I have said the same thing differently, I guess, here.”

Inconsistent messaging won’t instill trust in the taxpaying public, Parker said.

“I don’t think so,” Parker said. “A lot of sidestepping and all. I think it tends to diminish confidence.”

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