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updated: 7/28/2010 7:18 PM

New law gives Illinois tollway tougher watchdog

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The Illinois tollway's new watchdog won't be answerable to the people he or she is supposed to investigate, according to a new law formalized Wednesday.

Previously, the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority's inspector general was hired by the agency's top brass, leading to concerns about conflict of interest.

The agency has suffered from criticisms of nepotism and political influence during the tenure of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. After Blagojevich's ouster, leadership at the agency has changed with new board members and an executive director.

Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation Wednesday re-creating the office of inspector general at the tollway. The position is for a five-year term appointed by the governor and requiring a Senate vote to confirm.

The job entails investigating fraud, waste, abuse and misconduct. The new inspector general will have subpoena powers and broad access to agency records.

It's expected that one likely candidate for the job will be current head of investigations and audits James Wagner, who has the support of the new tollway chairman and executive director. Wagner is a former FBI agent and Chicago Crime Commission chief.

Quinn has 60 days to make an appointment.

The legislation was sponsored by Lake Forest Democrat Sen. Susan Garrett, who Wednesday spearheaded a hearing into similar issues at Metra.