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updated: 3/10/2020 5:58 PM

Senate’s new oversight committee has its eye on the tollway

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  • Laura Murphy

    Laura Murphy


A group of Illinois senators is creating an oversight committee to scrutinize transportation agencies in the state following concerns about patronage.

One of its first priorities will be reviewing hiring practices at the Illinois tollway, said Democratic Illinois Sen. Laura Murphy of Des Plaines, who is spearheading the effort.

"We hope it will provide an avenue for people to voice concerns and for (transportation) departments to let people know about their operations," she said.

The move comes after articles in the Daily Herald that raised questions about the new executive director hiring colleagues from his former workplace, the Chicago Housing Authority, for high-paying positions.

The Daily Herald reported in February that the total of former CHA staffers hired by tollway Executive Director Jose Alvarez had reached nine and their cumulative salaries were more than $1.3 million.

Tollway officials said the new staff members were extremely well-qualified for their positions and chosen on merit.

"The first order of business is some tollway issues," Murphy said. "We want to have a discussion on hiring and procurement processes. I'm a believer that sunshine makes everything look better."

The initial meeting of the Urban Modal Transit Oversight Committee could occur in March.

Murphy will be co-chairwoman of the committee and Transportation Committee Chairman and Democratic Sen. Ram Villivalam of Chicago is co-chairman.

Support for the Urban Modal Transit Oversight Committee is bipartisan and Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady will appoint GOP members, Murphy said.

"It's a great opportunity to learn more about their operations," she said, adding the meetings were not intended to be a "gotcha" experience but "a forum to learn and exchange information."