State boards boring but lucrative

October 17, 2011

Download Story
(AP/M. Spencer Green, file)
William Cellini

Stuart Levine, the star witness in the government's corruption case against William Cellini, is expected back on the stand Monday. He's giving an insider account of how people who pay attention to state boards that deal with the mundane business of government can make a whole lot of money. He provided the same insights into government when he spent three weeks on the stand in the trial of Tony Rezko, who was a top fundraiser for former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Stuart Levine has told jurors how he used his position on obscure state boards to secretly pay himself sham fees. He was on the board of TRS, the Teacher's Retirement System, and he says that at Cellini's urging, he embarrassed and forced the resignation of the agency's director and then pushed to install Cellini's choice for a successor. Levine says the moves gave Cellini considerable power over the agency, which then awarded Cellini a $220 million business contract.

Prosecutors say there was nothing illegal about that, but they say, to hold on to their power under Rod Blagojevich, Levine and Cellini tried to extort campaign contributions for the former governor.