Illinois State Sen. Martin Sandoval has resigned from his position as chair of the State Senate's Transportation Committee amid a federal fraud and corruption investigation related to state construction work, the Associated Press reported. The Democratic senator is still listed as a member of the committee, however, as of Oct. 15.
The move came after the details of a federal search warrant revealed that the FBI last month combed Sandoval's offices and home for information related to architect Cesar Santoy; Santoy's architecture firm, Studio ARQ; red-light camera program company SafeSpeed; lobbyists; construction companies; and employees of the Illinois DOT in a quest for "items related to any official action taken in exchange for a benefit." No one has been charged in the matter, and SafeSpeed representatives have denied any wrongdoing. Santoy has also resigned from his position with the Illinois Tollway Board of Directors.
Sandoval played a significant role in the development of Illinois Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker's $45 billion Rebuild Illinois construction initiative, signed into law July 1. The plan is being funded by gas and cigarette tax increases, as well as the revenue generated by an expansion of state gambling laws. One of the companies mentioned in the search warrant was video gambling company Gold Rush Amusements.
The Rebuild Illinois construction plan includes pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs, the latter of which is aimed at the state's public works sector; a provision intended to encourage diversity in hiring among contractors; a workforce program; and incentives for data center owners to build in the state. The biggest winners, though, are likely the contractors, engineers and designers of the $33.2 billion worth of infrastructure projects eyed, which will include new construction and repair of roads and bridges, mass transit projects and other transportation-related undertakings.
When lawmakers are charged with overseeing such massive publicly funded construction projects, it's not uncommon for bad actors to seek a leg up on the competition by going outside the bounds of the law in order to win work.
And corruption isn't limited to those in charge of big state budgets. A businessman based in Tallahassee, Florida, for example, has been accused of allegedly paying a $100,000 bribe to a former city commissioner in order to stop the construction of a new hotel that would rival his own.
Earlier this year in Illinois, a federal jury convicted Michael Jarigese and his company, Markham, Illinois-based Tower Contracting on several counts of wire fraud and one count of federal program bribery in relation to payments they made to former Markham Mayor David Webb Jr. Webb allegedly demanded the money in exchange for city construction work.