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Case Example: Why is the State Checkbook Important?

After Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka rejected our request for one year of the state checkbook, we asked the Attorney General’s office for help.  Initially, the states top law enforcement officer opened a case saying, “… further inquiry is warranted.” But after perfunctory phone calls and emails, there’s been five months of silence.  What could they be hiding?  Here’s just one example: 


Attorney General Lisa Madigan Personally Approved Travel Reimbursement
19 times in 18 months for Supervising Attorney’s Travel to Illinois
From Her Home in Michigan.

In 2010, state employee Cecilia Abundis was promoted into management at Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office with the title of Supervising Attorney.  Abundis received one of the largest pay increases at the AG with a 16% pay hike (source: openthebooks.com and internal AG documents).  Thereafter, Abundis moved to the state of Michigan and now lives four hours away from the nearest office of Illinois Attorney General at the James R Thompson Center, Chicago.  It’s exactly 507 roundtrip miles away.  We know these facts from Abundis’ official travel vouchers.

A “Supervising Attorney” living in Michigan?
Review of Abundis’ time card shows only a couple of days per month when she is “in the office”.  See time card here. The rest of the time, she is filing a “field report” and is presumably “supervising Illinois assistant attorney generals from her residence in Michigan.”  Read field report, here.

Reimbursed thousands to visit her Mom-  19 times in last 18 months taxpayers paid for the 507 mile roundtrip
On the few days each month when she does travel to the AG Office, taxpayers pay her travel from Michigan to her mother’s residence in Chicago.  This is clearly delineated on Abundis’ travel voucher:  Departed from- Residence (MI);  Arrived at- Mom’s Residence. Review travel voucher, here.  Taxpayers reimburse 55 cents per mile or up to $280 dollars per roundtrip!

Paid from an “In-State Travel, Employee Reimbursement” Account
Abundis’ travel reimbursement comes from an account specifically designated “1291: In-State Travel, Employee Reimbursement”.  See travel voucher linked above. But, this reimbursement isn’t in-state travel, as Abundis lives two states away from Illinois.

Is this a “One Off” Example or a Practice at the Attorney General’s Office?
During FY2012, Attorney General (agency 340) spent $132,344 from account “1291: In-State Travel, Employee Reimbursement”.  But, only $2,954 of the $132,344 was appropriated by the General Assembly, the rest is non-appropriated spending. See the appropriated spending vs. non-appropriated spending.  Is this “travel account” systemic of an even larger office practice to reward Lisa Madigan’s patronage hires?  To answer this question, we need the states’ checkbook.

Are IRS, Illinois Department of Revenue, and Michigan tax regulations violated?
Taxing bodies generally discourage tax-free reimbursement of commuting costs.  Reimbursement of costs from residence in Michigan to a mom’s residence in Illinois certainly looks like a taxable perk.

Attorney General Approval of Practice
Attorney General Lisa Madigan personally signs off on Abundis’ time card.

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