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Quinn defends record on anti-violence program

CHICAGO – Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn defended his record Thursday on a troubled 2010 anti-violence program he championed, saying he moved swiftly to correct problems years before a state auditor’s report raised questions about expenditures.

The Chicago Democrat said he was the first to spot issues in 2012 with the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative and he moved to abolish the agency that ran it.

The initiative, designed to reduce Chicago neighborhood violence by helping young people get jobs, offer parenting skills and help for people getting out of prison, spent $55 million in the first two years.

However, Auditor General William Holland’s report last month found “pervasive deficiencies” in implementing the initiative, along with sloppy and missing paperwork.

The report questioned about 40 percent of the expenditures by service providers.

The findings led some top Republicans to call for a federal investigation.

But Quinn said Thursday that his administration investigated and fixed problems.

“The job of the governor is to step in when you see something going in the wrong direction and straighten it out. That’s what I did with that program, long before the audit arrived,” Quinn told reporters after an unrelated event.

The initiative was run by the now-defunct Illinois Violence Prevention Authority, which relied in part on recommendations from Chicago aldermen when choosing community agencies to run programs.

The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority took over the Violence Prevention Authority last year.

Quinn announced the initiative in October 2010 after Chicago pastors asked him to help combat city violence.

The timing prompted critics to argue it was a program to lock up the city’s vote a month before he won election by a thin margin.

Also, the Chicago Sun-Times reported earlier this month that tens of thousands of dollars earmarked for the program was paid to Benton Cook, the husband of Democratic Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, who worked as a program coordinator.

Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno called his hiring “pure cronyism.”

Quinn’s office said it wasn’t involved in hiring, disputed claims of favoritism and said no community organization received money until after the election.

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