Lawmaker: Shine light on who is managing state buildings
BY DAVE McKINNEY Springfield bureau chief firstname.lastname@example.org February 9, 2012 3:30PM
Updated: June 14, 2012 11:10AM
SPRINGFIELD — A suburban lawmaker targeted felon William Cellini’s business “empire” Thursday in pressing to end decades of state-sanctioned secrecy surrounding how much Cellini’s family makes managing government office buildings.
Driven by stories in the Chicago Sun-Times, state Sen. Susan Garrett (D-Lake Forest) called on the state Procurement Policy Board to pursue legislation that for the first time would disclose who runs management companies that oversee state buildings and how much those firms make indirectly from government leases.
The issue has surfaced because Cellini, a felon convicted for taking part in a $1.5 million shakedown of investment mogul and Hollywood producer Thomas Rosenberg, is barred under state law from doing business with the state because of his conviction.
While lawyers for Cellini himself contend he does not do any government contracting, a web of companies that he formed and now are run by his children manage more than a dozen state buildings in a lucrative and confusing business arrangement that indirectly could cost taxpayers millions of dollars.
“This should not be a witch hunt for William Cellini. What this does is expose the fact that the Cellini conglomerate has a stronghold on not just the landlord-lease issues, but also and more importantly, the management of at least 14 state-occupied facilities with no oversight,” Garrett said.
“No disrespect to William Cellini, but it’s not just a fly-by-night company. And it’s an empire. We’re doing business with the family, and we should be very clear about it and honest about it,” she said.
Based on the lack of disclosure now, there is “no way of knowing” whether a company Cellini himself fronts — New Frontier Management — might be “getting a cut or piece of the action” on management deals Pacific has with state landlords, Garrett said.
But Pacific lawyer William Roberts, a former U.S. attorney and former top lawyer to ex-Gov. Jim Edgar, said he did not believe Garrett’s scenario involving New Frontier was true.
“As far as I know, that’s not the case. I’m virtually certain of it, but I haven’t looked at all the books,” said Roberts, who earlier sought to dispel Cellini links to Pacific.
“Let me state clearly that Bill Cellini has no relationship with [Pacific]. Further, [Pacific] has no contract with the state of Illinois, not that they couldn’t. [Pacific] is owned by Bill Cellini Jr. and Claudia Cellini, neither of whom has been charged or convicted of anything,” he said.
But state pays Pacific Management for management services at Illinois Student Assistance Commission’s Deerfield headquarters, state records show. During this fiscal year, the state obligated $814,265 to Pacific.
The head of the Procurement Policy Board, David Vaught, told Garrett that the panel’s next step would be to “consider” her questions and concerns. But Vaught, Gov. Pat Quinn’s budget chief, offered no clear sense of whether the panel would recommend specific legislation.