Arts council accused of giving out grants without approval
The Illinois Arts Council Agency (IACA) has mastered a new craft: How to hand out grant money without even meeting, the Edgar County Watchdogs (ECW) contend.
On its Illinois Leaks website, the ECW questioned the legality of spending taxpayer money without approval and the propriety of awarding a $3,000 "Master Artist" grant to Rajeswair Pariti to teach her own granddaughter how to play music.
While the grant was awarded in 2014 and instruction was scheduled to begin in January 2015, the IACA did not approve the expenditure until its Oct. 14, 2016, board meeting, the ECW argued, asking how employees, grants and other items were paid if the board did not meet to approve the expenditures. The last time the board met was Aug. 22, 2014, according to the 2016 meeting minutes.
The ECW pointed to a recent article in Forbes, written by Open the Books founder Adam Andrzejewski, that called for replacement of IACA Chairman Shirley Madigan, wife of House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago). The article criticized the agency for its failure to meet regularly and funneling 37 cents of every dollar to 20 organizations that have financial assets of up to $3.1 billion.
The ECW also mentioned the recent Belleville News-Democrat article that revealed that the IACA spent $1 million on staff and overhead while giving out $834,900 in grants in 2016. The News-Democrat also supported replacing Madigan and implementing changes to foster transparency in the IACA.