Lawmakers: Thomson still on track for full activation

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THOMSON – Two Illinois lawmakers said Tuesday that the federal government remains committed to a full activation of the Thomson prison.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, both Democrats, toured the prison Tuesday and received an update on the activation from the federal Bureau of Prisons.

“Today, Congresswoman Bustos and I were assured that the activation of Thomson prison remains on schedule and that they are making good progress on critical infrastructure projects,” Durbin said in a news release.

Durbin said the Thomson facility is a key component of the Department of Justice’s plan to address overcrowding and other challenges within the corrections system.

A fully activated Thomson prison would reduce overcrowding at federal high-security facilities from 25 percent down to 19 percent, the Bureau of Prisons said.

In a bill passed last month by the Senate Appropriations Committee, $80 million was included for the activation of the prison – the exact amount requested by the Bureau of Prisons.

The next financing step will come in the fall session on Capitol Hill. The budget legislation must be passed by the full Senate and then reconciled with the version in the House.

Bustos said she and Durbin will continue to fight to make sure the prison is adequately funded.

“Following our tour today, Sen. Durbin and I are encouraged by the progress being made at Thomson, and we’ll continue pushing to provide the federal funds needed to get Thomson to full activation," Bustos said in the release.  

The state finished building the prison in 2001, but it sat empty for more than a decade because Illinois didn’t budget enough money to open it. In 2012, it was announced that the Bureau of Prisons would buy the facility for $165 million.

The prison, which can house up to 2,800 inmates, was to employ 1,100 people at full activation. Employees and prisoners have been brought in gradually, in accordance with each year’s funding levels. While full activation was said to be a possibility in both 2016 and 2017, no target date has been set by federal officials.

Lawmakers: Thomson still on track for full activation

Trial underway in lawsuit filed by ex-State Treasurer Rutherford aides

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Former Republican state Treasurer Dan Rutherford‘s ill-fated 2014 gubernatorial bid has long faded from public memory, but a civil trial this week at the Daley Center has placed a spotlight on the explosive allegations that damaged his campaign.

And taxpayers are footing the bill, with attorneys defending Rutherford in two civil cases already charging over $500,000 in legal fees before the first day of the first trial began this week, according to the legal team for the plaintiffs, citing state records.

Rutherford is being sued in Cook County Circuit Court by three workers in the treasurer’s office who say they were fired in retaliation for participating in a probe looking into allegations of sexual harassment and political pressure made against their then-boss, Rutherford. Attorneys for the ex-state treasurer have denied the allegations in the lawsuit, saying the trio was let go after an inspector general’s report recommended they be fired over allegations of falsifying timekeeping records.

As the trial got underway Monday, Rutherford took the stand and fielded questions about missing text messages — something attorneys for the three plaintiffs were seeking to determine whether the conversations might bolster their clients’ claims. But Rutherford testified that he couldn’t turn over texts after March 2014 — around the time of the gubernatorial primary and several months before the three were terminated — because his cellphone fell in a toilet, leaving the electronic messages irretrievable, according to attorneys involved in the case.

Rutherford also was questioned about whether state workers had to pitch in at his gubernatorial campaign events while still on the taxpayers’ dime. Rutherford testified that there were days when state employees took him to campaign events, but those employees were off the state clock while he was politicking, attorneys on both sides of the case told the Tribune.

The ex-staffers allege they were let go after they were identified as witnesses who corroborated another employee’s claims that he faced sexual harassment and political pressure at the hands of Rutherford.

But Rutherford’s attorney Daniel Fahner said his client fired the three — logistics manager Patrick Carlson, community affairs and marketing director George Daglas and investment director Ashvin Lad — only after a treasurer’s inspector general’s report recommended they be fired over allegations they had falsified timekeeping records.

“This is not a complicated case,” he said.

David L. Wells, then the office’s inspector general but now retired, found that the three shared their computer logon information in order to sign in and out of the office timekeeping system for each other.

According to court records and Wells’ report, the “scheme surfaced” on May 21, 2014, when Lad sent a Snapchat message to co-workers of himself at Wrigley Field at 2 p.m. with the caption “I’m playing Hooky…. SHHHHH.” The report said records show Lad clocked in to work at 7:21 a.m. and clocked out at 3:03 p.m., though staff members told Wells they did not recall seeing Lad that day.

But their attorney Dana Kurtz said the three were fired not long after being identified as witnesses in a claim brought by former aide Ed Michalowski, whose own lawsuit alleging Rutherford made unwanted advances and then unfairly overlooked him for promotion is pending in federal court.

The offenses for which her clients were fired were unproved, Kurtz said, and other employees had incorrectly filled out timecards without being fired.

During his campaign for governor, Rutherford held an unorthodox news conference, saying he wanted to directly address misconduct allegations that were trickling out at the time, but details hadn’t publicly surfaced. He said he wanted to detail why the allegations were false, but declined to do so, saying the matter was under investigation. Eventually, Michalowski’s allegations emerged.

The allegations didn’t help his political prospects. He finished last in the four-way GOP gubernatorial primary race.

In an interview with the Tribune last year, Rutherford declined to address the allegations against him or even talk about his political future. He did say he was having great fun leading trips to Cuba through his travel business, Global Relations Travel Club.

“On one trip I said ‘I can’t have another lobster!'” Rutherford, of Chenoa, said at the time. “I’ve had enough!”

The trial, which is being heard by Cook County Circuit Judge James Snyder, is expected to go through week.

sschmadeke@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @SteveSchmadeke

Trial underway in lawsuit filed by ex-State Treasurer Rutherford aides

Toni Preckwinkle Discusses Cook County Soda Tax Pushback

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Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle has a powerful ally helping convince consumers and voters that the county’s new penny-per-ounce sweetened beverage tax is good public policy. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is personally funding a $2 million commercial campaign against soda.

VIDEO

However, the tax has faced enormous backlash, beginning with retailers. Implementation was scheduled to start July 1, but the Illinois Retail Merchants Association filed a lawsuit to stop it. The judge on the case ultimately ruled that the tax could start being collected about a month later.

The delay in collecting the tax revenue forced Preckwinkle to announce layoffs of 300 county employees to help balance the Cook County budget. The soda tax was expected to bring in about $67 million in 2017 and another $200 million in 2018.

But the tax is remarkably unpopular with shoppers. Even though it has only been collected for a few weeks, a whopping 87 percent of county residents polled by the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association do not approve of it.

Preckwinkle has steadfastly stood by the levy as it works its way through the legal system. The Illinois Retail Merchants Association has appealed the decision and asked for a speedy legal resolution to which the county has agreed.

“We’re glad they agreed to an expedited appeal so we can get resolution to this issue in a timely manner,” said Tanya Triche Dawood, vice president and general counsel of IRMA. Dawood anticipates the appeals court decision sometime this fall.

Even with a quick appellate court decision, Preckwinkle is prepared for a long court battle. “Three or four years ago we initiated a tax on ammunition and that’s still being adjudicated,” said Preckwinkle. “So, I anticipate that this will be a long, slow progress through the courts.”

Opposition to the tax is also mounting in the Illinois House of Representatives where a new bill, HB4083, was filed to prevent Illinois counties from taxing sweetened beverages based on weight or volume. It was introduced on Aug.15 and seven days later, it had bipartisan support and 29 co-sponsors.

The sweetened beverage tax faces a repeal vote at next month’s Cook County Board meeting, Sept. 12.

Preckwinkle joins Eddie Arruza to discuss the sweetened beverage tax, Cook County finances and more.


Related stories:

Crain’s: Cook County Union Lauds Preckwinkle for New Contract

Aug. 21: As the fight over the Cook County sweetened beverage tax enters yet another round, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is getting some praise from one of the county’s biggest unions.


How Cook County’s Soda Tax Could Swallow Food Stamp Funding

Aug. 10: The rollout of Cook County’s sweetened beverage tax has been anything but sweet and easy. Now there’s concern it could put food stamps at risk.


Cook County Drops Suit Seeking $17M in Damages Related to Soda Tax

Aug. 8: Cook County’s new tax on sweetened drinks is sticking around, but Board President Toni Preckwinkle is dropping the county’s counter-lawsuit against the retailers who tried to get it tossed.


Toni Preckwinkle Discusses Cook County Soda Tax Pushback

Toni Preckwinkle Discusses Cook County Soda Tax Pushback

http://ift.tt/2wDnfrs

Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle has a powerful ally helping convince consumers and voters that the county’s new penny-per-ounce sweetened beverage tax is good public policy. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is personally funding a $2 million commercial campaign against soda.

VIDEO

However, the tax has faced enormous backlash, beginning with retailers. Implementation was scheduled to start July 1, but the Illinois Retail Merchants Association filed a lawsuit to stop it. The judge on the case ultimately ruled that the tax could start being collected about a month later.

The delay in collecting the tax revenue forced Preckwinkle to announce layoffs of 300 county employees to help balance the Cook County budget. The soda tax was expected to bring in about $67 million in 2017 and another $200 million in 2018.

But the tax is remarkably unpopular with shoppers. Even though it has only been collected for a few weeks, a whopping 87 percent of county residents polled by the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association do not approve of it.

Preckwinkle has steadfastly stood by the levy as it works its way through the legal system. The Illinois Retail Merchants Association has appealed the decision and asked for a speedy legal resolution to which the county has agreed.

“We’re glad they agreed to an expedited appeal so we can get resolution to this issue in a timely manner,” said Tanya Triche Dawood, vice president and general counsel of IRMA. Dawood anticipates the appeals court decision sometime this fall.

Even with a quick appellate court decision, Preckwinkle is prepared for a long court battle. “Three or four years ago we initiated a tax on ammunition and that’s still being adjudicated,” said Preckwinkle. “So, I anticipate that this will be a long, slow progress through the courts.”

Opposition to the tax is also mounting in the Illinois House of Representatives where a new bill, HB4083, was filed to prevent Illinois counties from taxing sweetened beverages based on weight or volume. It was introduced on Aug.15 and seven days later, it had bipartisan support and 29 co-sponsors.

The sweetened beverage tax faces a repeal vote at next month’s Cook County Board meeting, Sept. 12.

Preckwinkle joins Eddie Arruza to discuss the sweetened beverage tax, Cook County finances and more.


Related stories:

Crain’s: Cook County Union Lauds Preckwinkle for New Contract

Aug. 21: As the fight over the Cook County sweetened beverage tax enters yet another round, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is getting some praise from one of the county’s biggest unions.


How Cook County’s Soda Tax Could Swallow Food Stamp Funding

Aug. 10: The rollout of Cook County’s sweetened beverage tax has been anything but sweet and easy. Now there’s concern it could put food stamps at risk.


Cook County Drops Suit Seeking $17M in Damages Related to Soda Tax

Aug. 8: Cook County’s new tax on sweetened drinks is sticking around, but Board President Toni Preckwinkle is dropping the county’s counter-lawsuit against the retailers who tried to get it tossed.


Toni Preckwinkle Discusses Cook County Soda Tax Pushback

Toni Preckwinkle Discusses Cook County Soda Tax Pushback

http://ift.tt/2wDnfrs

Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle has a powerful ally helping convince consumers and voters that the county’s new penny-per-ounce sweetened beverage tax is good public policy. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is personally funding a $2 million commercial campaign against soda.

VIDEO

However, the tax has faced enormous backlash, beginning with retailers. Implementation was scheduled to start July 1, but the Illinois Retail Merchants Association filed a lawsuit to stop it. The judge on the case ultimately ruled that the tax could start being collected about a month later.

The delay in collecting the tax revenue forced Preckwinkle to announce layoffs of 300 county employees to help balance the Cook County budget. The soda tax was expected to bring in about $67 million in 2017 and another $200 million in 2018.

But the tax is remarkably unpopular with shoppers. Even though it has only been collected for a few weeks, a whopping 87 percent of county residents polled by the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association do not approve of it.

Preckwinkle has steadfastly stood by the levy as it works its way through the legal system. The Illinois Retail Merchants Association has appealed the decision and asked for a speedy legal resolution to which the county has agreed.

“We’re glad they agreed to an expedited appeal so we can get resolution to this issue in a timely manner,” said Tanya Triche Dawood, vice president and general counsel of IRMA. Dawood anticipates the appeals court decision sometime this fall.

Even with a quick appellate court decision, Preckwinkle is prepared for a long court battle. “Three or four years ago we initiated a tax on ammunition and that’s still being adjudicated,” said Preckwinkle. “So, I anticipate that this will be a long, slow progress through the courts.”

Opposition to the tax is also mounting in the Illinois House of Representatives where a new bill, HB4083, was filed to prevent Illinois counties from taxing sweetened beverages based on weight or volume. It was introduced on Aug.15 and seven days later, it had bipartisan support and 29 co-sponsors.

The sweetened beverage tax faces a repeal vote at next month’s Cook County Board meeting, Sept. 12.

Preckwinkle joins Eddie Arruza to discuss the sweetened beverage tax, Cook County finances and more.


Related stories:

Crain’s: Cook County Union Lauds Preckwinkle for New Contract

Aug. 21: As the fight over the Cook County sweetened beverage tax enters yet another round, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is getting some praise from one of the county’s biggest unions.


How Cook County’s Soda Tax Could Swallow Food Stamp Funding

Aug. 10: The rollout of Cook County’s sweetened beverage tax has been anything but sweet and easy. Now there’s concern it could put food stamps at risk.


Cook County Drops Suit Seeking $17M in Damages Related to Soda Tax

Aug. 8: Cook County’s new tax on sweetened drinks is sticking around, but Board President Toni Preckwinkle is dropping the county’s counter-lawsuit against the retailers who tried to get it tossed.


Toni Preckwinkle Discusses Cook County Soda Tax Pushback

Toni Preckwinkle Discusses Cook County Soda Tax Pushback

http://ift.tt/2wDnfrs

Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle has a powerful ally helping convince consumers and voters that the county’s new penny-per-ounce sweetened beverage tax is good public policy. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is personally funding a $2 million commercial campaign against soda.

VIDEO

However, the tax has faced enormous backlash, beginning with retailers. Implementation was scheduled to start July 1, but the Illinois Retail Merchants Association filed a lawsuit to stop it. The judge on the case ultimately ruled that the tax could start being collected about a month later.

The delay in collecting the tax revenue forced Preckwinkle to announce layoffs of 300 county employees to help balance the Cook County budget. The soda tax was expected to bring in about $67 million in 2017 and another $200 million in 2018.

But the tax is remarkably unpopular with shoppers. Even though it has only been collected for a few weeks, a whopping 87 percent of county residents polled by the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association do not approve of it.

Preckwinkle has steadfastly stood by the levy as it works its way through the legal system. The Illinois Retail Merchants Association has appealed the decision and asked for a speedy legal resolution to which the county has agreed.

“We’re glad they agreed to an expedited appeal so we can get resolution to this issue in a timely manner,” said Tanya Triche Dawood, vice president and general counsel of IRMA. Dawood anticipates the appeals court decision sometime this fall.

Even with a quick appellate court decision, Preckwinkle is prepared for a long court battle. “Three or four years ago we initiated a tax on ammunition and that’s still being adjudicated,” said Preckwinkle. “So, I anticipate that this will be a long, slow progress through the courts.”

Opposition to the tax is also mounting in the Illinois House of Representatives where a new bill, HB4083, was filed to prevent Illinois counties from taxing sweetened beverages based on weight or volume. It was introduced on Aug.15 and seven days later, it had bipartisan support and 29 co-sponsors.

The sweetened beverage tax faces a repeal vote at next month’s Cook County Board meeting, Sept. 12.

Preckwinkle joins Eddie Arruza to discuss the sweetened beverage tax, Cook County finances and more.


Related stories:

Crain’s: Cook County Union Lauds Preckwinkle for New Contract

Aug. 21: As the fight over the Cook County sweetened beverage tax enters yet another round, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is getting some praise from one of the county’s biggest unions.


How Cook County’s Soda Tax Could Swallow Food Stamp Funding

Aug. 10: The rollout of Cook County’s sweetened beverage tax has been anything but sweet and easy. Now there’s concern it could put food stamps at risk.


Cook County Drops Suit Seeking $17M in Damages Related to Soda Tax

Aug. 8: Cook County’s new tax on sweetened drinks is sticking around, but Board President Toni Preckwinkle is dropping the county’s counter-lawsuit against the retailers who tried to get it tossed.


Toni Preckwinkle Discusses Cook County Soda Tax Pushback

Toni Preckwinkle Discusses Cook County Soda Tax Pushback

http://ift.tt/2wDnfrs

Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle has a powerful ally helping convince consumers and voters that the county’s new penny-per-ounce sweetened beverage tax is good public policy. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is personally funding a $2 million commercial campaign against soda.

VIDEO

However, the tax has faced enormous backlash, beginning with retailers. Implementation was scheduled to start July 1, but the Illinois Retail Merchants Association filed a lawsuit to stop it. The judge on the case ultimately ruled that the tax could start being collected about a month later.

The delay in collecting the tax revenue forced Preckwinkle to announce layoffs of 300 county employees to help balance the Cook County budget. The soda tax was expected to bring in about $67 million in 2017 and another $200 million in 2018.

But the tax is remarkably unpopular with shoppers. Even though it has only been collected for a few weeks, a whopping 87 percent of county residents polled by the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association do not approve of it.

Preckwinkle has steadfastly stood by the levy as it works its way through the legal system. The Illinois Retail Merchants Association has appealed the decision and asked for a speedy legal resolution to which the county has agreed.

“We’re glad they agreed to an expedited appeal so we can get resolution to this issue in a timely manner,” said Tanya Triche Dawood, vice president and general counsel of IRMA. Dawood anticipates the appeals court decision sometime this fall.

Even with a quick appellate court decision, Preckwinkle is prepared for a long court battle. “Three or four years ago we initiated a tax on ammunition and that’s still being adjudicated,” said Preckwinkle. “So, I anticipate that this will be a long, slow progress through the courts.”

Opposition to the tax is also mounting in the Illinois House of Representatives where a new bill, HB4083, was filed to prevent Illinois counties from taxing sweetened beverages based on weight or volume. It was introduced on Aug.15 and seven days later, it had bipartisan support and 29 co-sponsors.

The sweetened beverage tax faces a repeal vote at next month’s Cook County Board meeting, Sept. 12.

Preckwinkle joins Eddie Arruza to discuss the sweetened beverage tax, Cook County finances and more.


Related stories:

Crain’s: Cook County Union Lauds Preckwinkle for New Contract

Aug. 21: As the fight over the Cook County sweetened beverage tax enters yet another round, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is getting some praise from one of the county’s biggest unions.


How Cook County’s Soda Tax Could Swallow Food Stamp Funding

Aug. 10: The rollout of Cook County’s sweetened beverage tax has been anything but sweet and easy. Now there’s concern it could put food stamps at risk.


Cook County Drops Suit Seeking $17M in Damages Related to Soda Tax

Aug. 8: Cook County’s new tax on sweetened drinks is sticking around, but Board President Toni Preckwinkle is dropping the county’s counter-lawsuit against the retailers who tried to get it tossed.


Toni Preckwinkle Discusses Cook County Soda Tax Pushback