The Sangamon County Republicans SCRCC 2017 Golf Outing featuring Robert’s Seafood Surf & Turf last week was an opportunity for Republicans to kick back and forget about how they betrayed GOP voters with the bipartisan 32% income tax increase and the $36 billion spending plan passed by Illinois Republican leaders – which Governor Bruce Rauner “secretly” approved. It was an opportunity to let Rauner’s broken campaign promises about ending waste, fraud, and abuse in Illinois fade away. It was a few moments of sunny summer golf outing bliss, blocking out the dark clouds of the looming warehouse scandal involving Gov. Rauner and his appointee Frank Vala, who heads the Illinois Board of Procurement.
Sangamon County GOP event sponsored by three figures tied to felon Bill Cellini: Cellini, Vala, and Bruner
The Sangamon County GOP doesn’t seem concerned about the auditor general’s investigation into how a five-year $2.4 million taxpayer-funded warehouse lease deal with a company tied to convicted felon Bill Cellini got approved.
In fact, BILL CELLINI, the ex-treasurer of the Sangamon County Republicans, was a major sponsor of the Sangamon County GOP outing.
After his 2011 conviction, Cellini turned over control of his real estate company to his son, William Jr., and daughter, Claudia Cellini. Claudia Cellini’s husband, Raffi Vartanian, is a one-third owner of Climate Controlled Holdings, LLC which secured the lease deal through Vala. Climate Controlled Holdings purchased the old Barney’s Furniture Warehouse for only $575,000 before leasing it to Illinois for $2.4 million.
Board of Procurement chairman, FRANK VALA, who is at the center of the warehouse scandal, was also a major sponsor of the Sangamon County GOP event. Vala admitted he knew the $2.4 million contract would benefit his longtime friend Cellini and Cellini’s daughter and son-in-law. “I’ve known Mr. Cellini all of my life,” Vala said in an interview with WCIA’s Mark Maxwell, who broke the scandal back in April.
JIM BRUNER, owner of United Contractors Midwest, was also a sponsor of the Sangamon County GOP event. Bruner is a former Teachers Retirement System (TRS) board member who, along with another convicted felon, STUART LEVINE, voted to approve $50 million in pension fund business to Rauner’s firm, GTCR.
According to the Springfield Journal Register, although Bruner was never accused of wrongdoing, “his [Bruner’s] name was brought up by prosecutors in a 2012 sentencing memorandum before Leland Grove businessman Bill Cellini was sent to prison, where he served just more than 10 months of a yearlong term. The memo spelled out an ‘illegal deal to re-appoint James Bruner as trustee,’ though it also said the government had no evidence that Bruner was aware of the deal.”
Levine testified his job for Rauner’s firm GTCR was to use bribes to get pension business
Before his conviction, Levine had a $25,000-a-month contract “consulting” for CompBenefits Corp., which was which was owned by Rauner’s firm, GTCR. During his 2008 trial of Blagojevich fundraiser, Tony Rezko, Levine testified his job was to get work for CompBenefits through whatever means were needed, including payoffs.
Cellini was convicted of conspiring with Levine, a TRS board member, Rezko and the late Christopher Kelly to extort a $1.5 million campaign contribution or $2 million bribe from Hollywood producer and real estate investor Thomas Rosenberg.
This is the culture of Springfield corruption Bruce Rauner promised voters he would end. He isn’t ending it. Why? Because Rauner was and is a part of it.
How Rauner and Vala screwed the taxpayers
Instead of leasing the old Barney’s Furniture warehouse, the State of Illinois could have purchased it for $575,000, saving the State of Illinois millions of dollars. Instead, taxpayers will be paying $2.4 million to Bill Cellini’s family members.
On April 20th, Maxwell reported that taxpayers were on the hook for another second five-year warehouse lease deal for $1.3 million with a company tied to Bill Cellini. In the course of one year, Jesse Moats, owner of BJD Properties built a 16,000 square foot warehouse and quickly leased it to Illinois through Vala.
Rauner evades questions about the warehouse scandal, Vala
Gov. Rauner, who promised voters he would “shake up Springfield” and put an end to waste, fraud and abuse, could have fired his appointee, Frank Vala back in April when news of the first warehouse scandal first broke.
When questioned about the scandal, Rauner sidestepped the issue and refused to commit to firing Vala. “As you know, procurement law changes came in a few years ago to keep the Governor’s office out of any procurement process so I have not been involved at all. I learned about this the same time you did,” Rauner said in an interview with Maxwell.
In May, the Illinois comptroller announced it would be freezing payments to the leaseholders pending further review. The Illinois House and Senate also passed a resolution in June calling on the auditor general to conduct an investigation.
This is another corrupt crony deal for Illinois taxpayers at a time when Illinois is in terrible fiscal trouble. Real GOP Illinois believes that Gov. Rauner should fire his appointee Frank Vala and keep his campaign promise to taxpayers.
Maybe Rauner eventually will…there is an election coming up in 2018.