Chico’s confirmation as state school boss hits snag
BY DAVE MCKINNEY Sun-Times Springfield Bureau Chief firstname.lastname@example.org June 22, 2011 6:22PM
Updated: June 23, 2011 2:11AM
SPRINGFIELD — Former Chicago mayoral candidate Gery Chico’s appointment as chairman of the state Board of Education hit a snag Wednesday amid GOP questions over his ties to a now-defunct non-profit organization.
Based on issues raised by a Texas blogger, Senate Republicans put the brakes on Quinn’s appointment, asking that Chico personally appear before a Senate panel to explain his relationship with Save A Life Foundation, a charity that is undergoing a probe within Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office.
“To me, this is the biggest non-event there could be,” Chico said when asked about the wrinkle in his confirmation. “I’m happy to come down there and answer any questions.”
The Senate won’t take up Chico’s confirmation until, at the earliest, October, when lawmakers reconvene for their fall veto session. Chico can serve as the board chairman until he’s confirmed.
“No one is accusing him of anything, but if something comes up, you want to resolve it,” said Sen. Tim Bivins (R-Dixon), the ranking Republican on the Senate Executive Appointments Committee. “Without him here, we can’t answer those questions.”
Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) said he “absolutely” favors Chico’s appointment. The head of the Senate appointments panel, Sen. Tony Munoz (D-Chicago), said he did not believe Chico’s nomination is threatened but was willing to accommodate Republicans so they could ask questions of Chico, who was not required to attend Wednesday’s hearing.
Reached late Wednesday, Chico said he was not aware of any wrongdoing by the organization and first became aware of it as chairman of the Chicago Public Schools board.
Chico noted that “most of Illinois’ political establishment” embraced the group, which received government grants to teach the Heimlich maneuver and CPR. Questions have surfaced in published reports about whether the millions of taxpayer dollars to train children in emergency response were spent properly.
“As far as any kind of allegation of wrongdoing, if they committed any wrongdoing, they should be held accountable,” he said.
As a mayoral candidate, Chico faced questions about his alleged involvement as a board member of the Save a Life Foundation, but he denied Wednesday ever having served on the board.
The Schiller Park-based non-profit disbanded in 2009 and has been undergoing a review by Madigan’s office since last year based on a complaint from a Little Elm, Tex., blogger, who declined to be interviewed by the Chicago Sun-Times.
“We’re reviewing the final document of the organization along with a complaint we received to determine if there’s been any violations of the Charitable Trust Act,” Madigan spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler said.