A series of reports by Daily Herald transportation writer Marni Pyke on questionable hiring and spending practices by Illinois tollway officials during the past year has earned her a spot as a finalist for the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Awards For Investigative Reporting.
Pyke is one of six finalists. Awards will be announced at a special ceremony May 21 and be given for first, second and third places. The top award comes with a $15,000 prize, while the second-place winner gets $7,000 and third receives $4,000.
"We're excited to hear about the latest recognition for Marni's coverage of contract and hiring practices at the Illinois Toll Highway Authority," Editor John Lampinen said. "We're proud of her work and prouder still of the impact it has had to serve the public good."
Pyke wrote close to two dozen pieces in the ongoing series that uncovered nepotism, patronage and excessive spending at the tollway.
The findings in Pyke's investigations included the tollway's hiring politically connected personnel and selecting politically connected contractors for tollway work, all while paying a premium. Ultimately, the series led to legislative investigations into the board's practices and policies, culminating with the board's firing earlier this year.