Around Illinois – May 30

May 30, 2012
  • ICC quadruples ComEd delivery rate reduction
  • Lawsuits challenge same-sex marriage ban
  • Democrat quits 12th District Congressional race
  • Dixon is advertising for a Finance Director
    … and federal officers want to sell assets

ComEd’s power delivery rate cut by $169 million

Under the smart grid improvement program passed by the Illinois General Assembly last year over Gov. Pat Quinn’s veto, Commonwealth Edison Co. had planned to reduce its delivery rates by some $40 million for the remainder of the year.

The Illinois Commerce Commission, taking issue with how ComEd accounts for its pension assets, kicked that number to $169 million, according to a report in Crain’s Chicago Business.

The smart grid law allows utilities to hike their rates annually via a formula to help them pay for installing “smart meters” for all their customers and make other system improvements. Those upgrades are supposed to lead to fewer and shorter power outages.

Crain’salso says that the proposed ComEd rate hike next year will more than wipe out any savings this year.

ComEd’s response is pending.

Lawsuits seek same-sex marriage in Illinois

More than two dozen gay and lesbian couples in Illinois plan to file lawsuits today aimed at legalizing same-sex marriage in the state.

The two lawsuits — backed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and the New York-based gay advocacy group Lambda Legal — argue that it's unconstitutional for the state to deny them the right to marry.

Both lawsuits argue that the Illinois Constitution guarantees the right for same-sex couples to marry under due process and equality clauses.

Legislation to eliminate the law's language that prohibits gay marriage is pending, but a vote isn't expected before the legislative session is scheduled to end this week.

The lead plaintiffs in the ACLU lawsuit are Chicago police detective Tanya Lazaro and systems analyst Elizabeth Matos, who have been together 15 years and have two children.

" We want our relationship, our love and our commitment we've shown for 15 years to be recognized like everybody else's," Lazaro said. "When you're growing up, you don't dream of civil unions."

Advocates hope the lawsuits will make their way to the Illinois Supreme Court.

One year ago Friday, the Illinois law allowing same-sex civil unions went into effect. Recent polls show public support for same-sex marriage has steadily increased.

Democrat withdraws from Congressional race

Democratic candidate Brad Harriman has dropped out of the 12th Congressional District race against Republican Jason Plummer, citing a neurological condition diagnosed in 2010.

 “… I am ending my campaign after consultation with my doctor,” Harriman said in a news release. “My condition has noticeably worsened over the course of the campaign to the point that if I do not address it with surgery, I am facing irreparable damage. While it is non-life threatening, I need to address it now.”

District 12 runs south along the Mississippi River from the St. Louis area to the southern tip of the state and east to include the Mount Vernon area.

Incumbent U.S. Rep Jerry Costello Sr., who announced his retirement from the seat, has said he will not run again. His son, State Rep. Jerry Costello II, D-Sparta, has been mentioned as a possible replacement.

Democratic Party chairmen from the counties within the 12th District will meet to select an opponent for Plummer in the November general election.

Dixon seeks Finance Director to replace arrested comptroller

The City of Dixon, reeling from the loss of $53 million allegedly embezzled by former Comptroller Rita Crundwell, is advertising for a “public finance executive to serve as its Finance Director” rather than someone to fill the posts of comptroller and treasurer, which Crundwell held for more than 25 years.

The ad describes the job as “an integral part of the executive management teamparticipating in key decisions.” The complete job description offers extensive detail.

Candidates must have an appropriate bachelor’s degree and at least five years of “increasingly responsible experience in executive-level financial administration.” Starting salary is listed as $80,000 depending on qualifications.

Meanwhile, back in federal court …

Federal prosecutors have filed a motion to begin selling assets of former Dixon Comptroller Rita Crundwell to recoup money for the city and to deal with the expenses of maintaining the assets, even before the case is resolved in court.

On the list are five land parcels and a $2.1 million luxury motor home, among other assets.

Asst. U.S. Atty. Joe Pedersen wrote that "financial responsibilities relating to the subject properties are burdensome and the defendant does not have the means to meet the obligations," including paying mortgages on one property, maintaining all properties and paying utility bills.

Pedersen wrote in the motions that Crundwell and her attorneys agree to the sale, although Crundwell is not admitting any guilt.

The U.S. Marshals Service took over the properties following Crundwell's arrest April 17 on one count of wire fraud as part of a scheme to misappropriate more than $53 million in taxpayer money over two decades to maintain her "lavish lifestyle."  

Marshals also are caring for Crundwell's prime horses scattered across the country. Early this month, marshals said Crundwell owned 311 quarter horses around the county; that number has grown to 396 – plus embryos and frozen stallion semen.

Federal Magistrate P. Michael Mahoney also granted a motion by Texas horse breeders and veterinarians to recoup more than $150,000 in costs of caring for 21 of Crundwell’s horses in Texas.

The Percott Company, owner of the Beloit, Wis., horse farm which boards 60 of Crundwell’s horses, also filed a motion to recoup more than $150,000 in costs. There has not yet been a ruling on that motion.

Crundwell is due back in court June 15. Judge Philip G. Reinhard is overseeing her case.

You'll find a more background and details on the assets sale request and the additional horses at