Illinois Tollway Leader Cancels City Club Speech As Corruption Probe Broadens

Illinois Tollway Leader Cancels City Club Speech As Corruption Probe Broadens

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The Illinois Tollway’s top administrator abruptly pulled the plug on his scheduled speech Tuesday at the City Club of Chicago amid concerns over a newly-disclosed federal raid of the organization last May.

Jose Alvarez, the tollway’s executive director, withdrew from his speaking role at a planned City Club luncheon late Monday. That’s after WBEZ first reported on the City Club raid, and that federal investigators subpoenaed the organization for records about Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, D-Chicago.

“Executive Director Alvarez cancelled his appearance at the City Club while there are questions about the federal investigation involving the organization,” tollway spokesman Dan Rozek said in a statement released Tuesday.

Alvarez’s cancellation represents the first public fallout for the City Club after revelations that it’s connected to a vast federal corruption probe. The investigation focuses, at least in part, on potentially illegal patronage hiring and contracting at Commonwealth Edison, which is a significant City Club funder.

City Club President Jay Doherty is a ComEd lobbyist.

Doherty has not been accused of criminal wrongdoing, and the chairman of the group’s board said he sees no reason for Doherty to step down. The organization issued a statement late Sunday saying it does not believe it is the subject of the federal investigation.

In response to Alvarez’s sudden cancellation, the City Club issued a short statement Tuesday that said it “looks forward to welcoming Executive Director Jose Alvarez in the near future” and that it regretted any inconvenience associated with the cancelled program.

On Monday, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul appeared before the group as a keynote speaker at its Monday luncheon as planned. But the Democrat declined to answer questions from reporters afterward.

Federal prosecutors have not announced charges against anyone in connection with their investigation.

Earlier this month, tollway board member Cesar Santoy’s name appeared on a federal search warrant from the FBI’s raid on a state Sen. Martin Sandoval’s Captiol office. Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker demanded Santoy’s resignation, and he stepped down. Santoy, a Berwyn trustee, has not been charged.

Dave McKinney covers state politics and government for WBEZ. Follow him on Twitter @davemckinney.