Secretary of State Jesse White’s pal accused of double-billing state
BY NATASHA KORECKI AND TODD SHIELDS Staff Reporters November 7, 2013 6:27PM
Updated: December 9, 2013 11:06AM
A personal friend of Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White who also held a $75,000-a-year job in his office was at the center of an internal probe that allegedly found she was double-billing her time with the state.
The investigation also concluded she had lied about her background — including having nine variations of her name in public records.
The woman, Marlene Liss, left the office in September when a report by the office’s inspector general was finalized.
The report found Liss had provided false information on applications with the secretary of state — including listing a home address that was really a UPS store and claiming to have two degrees from Loyola University. The report alleged she did not have those degrees, the office said Thursday. Also, the report indicated that Liss had been claiming she worked hundreds of hours as a home-health aide for the state while she was on the clock in White’s office.
White and Liss were friends for 10 to 15 years, according to White’s office. Spokesman Dave Druker described the friendship as “non-romantic.”
“We did refer the matter to the U.S. attorney,” Druker said.
On Thursday, White, who is seeking his fifth term in office, answered questions about Liss after an event in Glenview.
However, White said he had known her for three years, explaining that he and several Cook County politicians routinely bought printed materials such as T-shirts from her Chicago print shop.
“She told me she was looking for a state job, and I told her how to apply,” White said, adding he was not involved in her interview process.
Druker added that White only gave Liss public information about the position, which initially was in the print shop of the office in Springfield. She later moved to a position in the department of securities.
“The secretary mentioned it to her and told her how she could apply for the job,” Druker said.
White said he oversees 3,700 state employees in his office.
“And I’ve fired 700. Now she’s gone, three weeks ago,” White said Thursday. “She’s history as far as we’re concerned.”
Liss could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
White said Illinois residents expected him and Jim Burns, inspector general for the Secretary of State’s office, to “clean up” his department after former Illinois Gov. George Ryan was sentenced to federal prison in 2006.
Ryan was convicted of racketeering, mail fraud, tax fraud, filing false tax returns and lying to FBI agents, many of which date back to when he was Illinois secretary of state from 1991 to 1999.
White said he has allowed Burns to investigate any case or individual he wanted without his interference.
Todd Shields is a reporter with Pioneer Press