Correction: Violence Program-Audit story

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - In a story May 28 about a hearing in Springfield on an anti-violence program, The Associated Press erroneously reported Republican Sen. Jason Barickman’s hometown. He is from Bloomington.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Democrats cooperate with probe of Quinn’s program

Illinois Democrats to keep cooperating with probe of Quinn’s embattled anti-violence program

By JOHN O'CONNOR

AP Political Writer

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - In a potential election-year embarrassment for Gov. Pat Quinn, Illinois Democrats said Wednesday that they’ll continue cooperating with a legislative review of his $55 million anti-violence program, which a key Republican called a “shameless, useless waste of taxpayer dollars.”

The bipartisan Legislative Audit Commission will try to get people involved in planning and implementing the 2010 “Neighborhood Recovery Initiative” to answer questions after a three-hour appraisal Wednesday of Auditor General William Holland’s caustic review of the program.

The audit scorned the initiative, which sought to target violent crime in 23 Chicago neighborhoods, as hastily implemented and suffering from “pervasive” deficiencies. Quinn’s critics have derided it as a political slush fund to drum up city votes before a tight 2010 election.

There were few answers Wednesday. Quinn administration sent to the hearing the director of a successor agency that inherited the program and is credited with bringing more professional standards to its operations.

The audit found the plan, hatched in August 2010 during a summer of intense violence, grew from $20 million to $55 million with no documentation to explain why. According to the report, it was doled out to organizations preferred by Chicago alderman instead of competitively, featured questionable spending and left out six of the 20 most-violent neighborhoods.

“This is a shameless, useless waste of taxpayer dollars,” said commission co-chairman Sen. Jason Barickman, a Bloomington Republican. “It is prudent to use taxpayer dollars to fight violence in Chicago and other cities. This isn’t it.”

The program was started by the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority, whose doors Quinn closed when shortcomings arose, folding the 11-employee agency into the Criminal Justice Information Authority. On the hot seat Wednesday was that agency’s director, Jack Cutrone, whom commission co-chairman Rep. Frank Mautino said “had this disaster dumped on your lap.”

The Spring Valley Democrat said afterward that Barbara Shaw, former director of the Violence Prevention Authority, agreed to appear before the commission but couldn’t be ready by Wednesday. A message by The Associated Press left at Shaw’s Chicago home was not immediately returned.

Mautino pledged the commission wouldn’t delay its pursuit until after the November election. He acknowledged the possibility politics could consume the issue.

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