Thursday, August 08, 2013

Former Public Health chief of staff charged with corruption

By Jamey Dunn

An indictment released today alleges that the former chief of staff for the Illinois Department of Public Health accepted bribes and kickbacks for directing grants and contracts to certain providers.

Quinshaunta Golden is accused of taking $433,000 in kickbacks from state grant and contract funds. Golden, who is the niece of U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, is charged with bribery, theft and fraud. Golden was chief of staff to from 2003 to 2008, serving for most of that time under Department of Public Health Director Eric Whitaker. The indictment does not indicate that Whitaker knew of Golden’s alleged misdeeds. “At this point the evidence has taken us to Quinn Golden, and the evidence has not taken us farther,” Jim Lewis, U.S. attorney for the Central District of Illinois, said at a Springfield news conference. Golden is also accused of witness tampering/obstruction of justice because prosecutors say she tried the influence a witness in an attempt to cover up the alleged crimes.

Today’s indictment stems from an investigation that has led to charges against 12 other people, including former Chicago Democratic state Rep. Constance Howard. She pleaded guilty in July to one count of wire fraud. Howard is accused of spending money from a scholarship fund on personal and campaign costs. She faces a sentencing date in November. Prosecutors have said they will seek a six-month prison sentence and six months home confinement for Howard. “Charges filed against these 13 defendants collectively allege the misuse of more than $16 million in taxpayers’ money intended to provide a wide range of health care, student assistance, job training programs and services to disadvantaged citizens. These include programs to promote wellness and improve health care; to prepare for major health and natural disaster emergencies; to provide health care advocacy programs and student job training assistance; to provide skill training and apprenticeships; and to provide statewide HIV prevention plans and HIV/AIDS facilities to assist African-Americans,” stated a news release from Lewis’ office.

The IDPH did not respond for a request for comment, and Golden could not be reached. Her first court appearance is scheduled for August 23. Lewis said that the investigation continues. However, he said that the charges do not indicate that the corruption touched all the programs at the IDPH. He said that so far, the focus has been on about $16 million in grants and contracts. “That’s a fraction of the money that was used [by the department]. My assumption is that a lot of the money for job training went to job training, that a lot of the money for education went to education; a lot of the money for health went to health. What we’re saying is that certain individuals, either grantees or contractors or an individual in the department, would occasionally steer some of the money into their private pocket.”

However, Lewis said he did not want to downplay the severity of the charges. “Public corruption makes my blood boil. It strikes at the heart of who we are as a people, how we govern ourselves. And do we live up to the contract, the agreement, that we have with each other?” Lewis called on state workers and the public to blow the whistle if they suspect corruption. He said anyone who suspects wrongdoing can call his office at (217) 492-4450. “I encourage everybody, if you see something that’s wrong, say something. Say it to the authorities, and let’s see if there’s something there.”

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