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Ex-state rep quits Emanuel team over ethics violation

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



A member of Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel’s newly appointed transition team resigned Friday after failing to disclose ethics violations from a previous state job.

Former state Rep. Judy Erwin used her state-issued cell phone and e-mail account to work on Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign while serving as executive director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, according to a decision filed by the state’s Executive Ethics Commission on Feb. 16.

Erwin also admitted to asking members of her staff to make travel arrangements for the 2008 Democratic National Convention and deliver a campaign contribution to a fund-raiser, the filing said.

Erwin resigned from the position last August, agreed never to seek state employment again and was fined $4,000. She also reimbursed her former employer nearly $1,300 for personal travel and phone usage.

But Erwin, a co-chair of Emanuel’s mayoral campaign, did not disclose the ethics violations to Emanuel or other campaign staff until Friday, a day after she was named as one of seven community and business leaders appointed to Emanuel’s transition team. Erwin could not be reached for comment Saturday.

Emanuel spokesman Ben LaBolt confirmed that the Emanuel campaign had not been aware of the ethics violations and that Erwin offered to step down.

In the filing, Erwin’s explanation was that she “was not careful enough in separating her political work from her state responsibilities . . . and also that she had become accustomed to using administrative assistants in the private sector in a way that is not permitted in the public sector.”

But the commission found it “particularly troubling” that Erwin had made a campaign contribution to a state representative who was chairman of a committee overseeing the Board of Higher Education’s budget.

“This suggests that she was responding to a real or imagined pay-to-play incentive within state government,” the commission wrote in its filing.

Contributing: Dave McKinney



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