I-Team

Dire Consequences

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A former high-ranking state lawyer says she suffered dire consequences after refusing to take part in what she contends was the beginning of Governor Rod Blagojevich's corruption.

Unlike the impeachment and the criminal charges now facing Governor Blagojevich, what you are about to see is not from last month or even last year.

The corruption allegations began more than five years ago shortly after Rod Blagojevich was elected for the first time on a promise to reform Illinois politics.

"Today is my first full day on the job. I want to make clear that business as usual in Illinois state government is a thing of the past," said Blagojevich on Jan 14, 2003.

With that pledge, Mr. Blagojevich was off and running as Illinois governor. But in January 2003, as he jogged past the capitol, he didn't know that six years later the general assembly would be inside trying to throw him out. But a long-time state government attorney says that in 2003 she quickly had a sense of what was to come.

"I was told that I would suffer dire consequences if I did not cooperate with the wishes of the administration," said Jeanette Tamayo, former state lawyer.

After the Blagojevich administration took charge six years ago, Tamayo was promoted from deputy chief legal counsel at the Illinois Gaming Board to interim administrator. At the time, gaming board members were deciding who would receive Illinois' tenth and final casino license.

"It was very clear that the governor's interest revolved around the casino and the Village of Rosemont," said Tamayo.

Gaming board investigators didn't want Rosemont which they considered mobbed up.

But according to a federal lawsuit filed by Jeanette Tamayo against Mr. Blagojevich and two of his top aides, Tamayo was threatened with retaliation and punishment if she didn't support a casino license for Rosemont.

"I received communications indicating what should happen with the gaming board and when I declined to cooperate with what I thought were unlawful or inappropriate requests, then my salary was not paid," said Tamayo.

Tamayo said "attempts to influence the outcome of the casino licensing investigation" were led by Chris Kelly who wasn't even a state employee. He was Blagojevich's chief fundraiser.

"He [Kelly] appeared at typically private meetings between the litigation counsel involved in the emerald casino cases and said 'I'm here. I represent the governor. I'm here to carry out his interests and this is what you are going to do'. He was not a lawyer. He was not on the state payroll. He just appeared as a representative of the governor and communicated or expressed that he was communicating the governor's wishes" said Tamayo.

Mr. Kelly's attorney Michael Monico of Chicago said that Kelly did nothing improper or illegal in any dealings with the Illinois Gaming Board.

Kelly, who recently pleaded guilty to tax fraud charges, is not a named defendant in the lawsuit.

Former Blagojevich chief of staff Lon Monk is named in the suit, along with Illinois revenue director Brian Hamer who still holds that state job.

"On a state holiday I was invited to a meeting organized by the governor's staff, Lon Monk, to explain why I was not cooperating with the Illinois Department of Revenue. It was made very clear to me at that meeting that my cooperation was expected and how that cooperation was expected. And it was not a pleasant meeting," said Tamayo.

"When she resisted the governor and his administration's efforts to control and essentially take over the Illinois Gaming Board, she was retaliated against in terms of how she was treated and the salary the Illinois Gaming Board had approved for her," said Michael Condon, Tamayo's lawyer.

Tamayo says she complained to the house gaming committee, to other gaming board officials and went to the Illinois attorney general, questioning whether Blagojevich had a right to interfere with the supposedly independent board. That's when she claims to have been muscled by revenue boss Brian Hamer whom the suit says Mr. Blagojevich said "was his guy."

"He ordered me to stop consulting with the Attorney General and to instead consult with the governor's counsel," said Tamayo.

"What's come to light is a pattern of behavior by the governor and his administration in terms of how state government was being run and operated," said Condon.

Lawyers for the governor, his former chief of staff, the Illinois Gaming Board and the state revenue director would not comment for this report.

Lawyers for the Jeanette Tamayo case say they will soon try to have Blagojevich, Monk and Haymer come in for depositions in the case, all aimed at getting Tamayo her full back pay. She says she was forced to resign in 2006 and after a short stint at the Chicago Crime Commission, is now unemployed.

(Copyright ©2014 WLS-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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