Emails from Gov. Pat Quinn’s former top aides recount how Cook County Recorder of
Deeds Karen Yarbrough, a Maywood Democrat, approached Quinn’s administration in
January 2011 to oppose giving NRI funding to a longtime social service provider in
By MARY O’CONNOR
MAYWOOD | One does not have to read between the lines of the emails from Gov. Pat
Quinn’s office to understand how political jockeying played a hand in steering allocated
funds to local nonprofits when deciding how big a serving some agencies should get
from his now-defunct $54.5 million Neighborhood Recovery Initiative anti-violence grant
Numerous email exchanges between Quinn’s former top aides recount how Cook
County Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough, a Maywood Democrat, who once served
as the 7th District Representative, boldly approached Quinn’s administration in
January 2011 to oppose giving NRI funding to a longtime Maywood-based social
Yarbrough convinced the head of the now-defunct agency that oversaw NRI that the
Proviso Leyden Council for Community Action (PLCCA) should not be paid to help ex
felon reentry into the community because it was “not being effective in Maywood and not
using resources well,” the emails read.
Barbara Shaw, executive director of the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority, recounted
Yarbrough’s concerns about PLCCA up the political hierarchy chain to Toni Irving,
former Quinn deputy chief of staff and then onward to Jack Lavin, Quinn’s former chief of
staff, according to email records.
In relaying Shaw’s message to Lavin, Irving alleged that “underlying” Karen Yarbrough’s
request was that the social service agency might be backing a rival to her husband,
Henderson Yarbrough Sr., who was midway into his second term as Maywood’s village
president, according to a Sun-Times report.
Upon consideration of the “underlying” Quinn’s staff decided that the Proviso Leyden
Council for Community Action should “split the work” with another unspecified entity,
even though PLCCA was deemed “most qualified” by Shaw and another top Quinn
official, the emails show.
Irvin wrote in an email on Jan. 20, 2011, “Maywood has been rife with conflict about
service providing agencies for NRI. At the core, it seems that while Shaw and Arthur
Bishop reviewed the PLCCA proposal and deemed them the most qualified, the village
of Maywood would like to exclude them from the grant,” Irving continued, “Underlying
this is that the [Proviso Leyden] person is running against the village person [Yarbrough’
s husband] for mayor. Our intervention is to have them split the work even though
[Proviso Leyden Council for Community Action] is deemed better.”
The details spelling out the Maywood funding dispute were in a batch of more than
2,000 emails Quinn’s office provided to the Legislative Audit Commission on July 11 as
part of the panel’s ongoing probe into NRI, which also is being investigated by a federal
grand jury in Springfield, reported the Sun-Times. “The exchanges represent one of the
most clear-cut acknowledgments from within Quinn’s administration that political
considerations played a serious role in the decision-making involving NRI.”
As recently as last week, in a televised news conference, Quinn dismissed the claims
by Republicans that the NRI program was purely political. In what some consider a
political move, with the motive being to financially reward his supporters, Quinn
announced the program a month before the 2010 election and abolished it in 2012
amid serious mismanagement.
According to the Sun-Times, a Quinn aide said that no one on the email chain is still on
the state payroll. “It appears the former state employees were attempting to avoid a
conflict between the two sides while ensuring that anti-violence programming
continued and was not interrupted,” Quinn spokeswoman Katie Hickey said. “The NRI
program was shut down in 2012 and anti-violence grants were moved to a new agency
overseen by law enforcement.
Quinn’s administration gave free reign to Yarbrough’s minions in charge of divvying up
$2 million in NRI money for Maywood in 2011 and 2012, with a large portion, greater
than $250,000 going to Maywood-based Vision of Restoration. A month into the
program, Proviso Leyden had been shut out of funding by the village, prompting a
complaint to the NRI by the organization. PLCCA eventually wound up receiving
$117,715 of the Maywood allotment for felony re-entry work under NRI.
Marvin E. Wiley, Vision of Restoration’s founder, and pastor of Rock of Ages Baptist
Church, which was in bankruptcy court about the same time, donated $250 to
Henderson Yarbrough’s campaign fund and board member and political ally Richard
Boykin gave a total of $5,000 to political funds of Karen and Henderson Yarbrough,
according to reports. Boykin is a former chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill.,
and he ran successfully in last spring's Democratic primary for the Cook County board
with Proviso Township Democratic Committeeman Karen Yarbrough's backing.
Yarbrough, not surprisingly, said she was “shocked” to learn Maywood’s mayoral
politics wound up surfacing in an internal discussion within Quinn’s office about how to
carve up the suburb’s $2 million NRI allotment, according to the Sun-Times report. “I’m
really surprised to hear this, that state government knows what is going on in Maywood
as far as whether someone is going to run for office from [Proviso Leyden]. Wow,” said
Yarbrough, who also denied discussing her husband’s political ambitions with Quinn
The alleged political rival, as depicted in Yarbrough’s emails, Bishop Claude Porter,
founder of PLCCA, never ran for political office, while Maywood citizens showed
Henderson Yarbrough the door and elected Edwena Perkins for mayor.
According to the Sun-Times, when asked about the email records outlining Maywood’s
mayoral landscape, Yarbrough replied, “If that’s what it says, that’s what it is: politics,”
she said. West Suburban Journal didn’t waste a dime calling Yarbrough with
questions – sadly we’ve been down this road, with Yarbrough, too many times to count.
PLCCA loses funding to
Proviso politics at its worst