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State Rep. Connie Howard Resigns Amid Federal Investigation

By Samantha Abernethy in News on Jul 25, 2012 7:40PM

South Side state Rep. Connie Howard (D-Chicago) quietly resigned earlier this month citing "personal reasons." However, that announcement came less than two weeks before feds made seven arrests related to kickbacks in state grants programs, and Howard's AIDS awareness organization was tangled in the investigation.

The Let's Talk, Let's Test Foundation co-founded by Howard is now defunct. A federal investigation looked into two 2007 state grants: a $1.2 million grant from the Illinois Department of Public Health and a $500,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. The Tribune writes:

Through its grant monitoring process, the economic development agency found that Let's Talk, Let's Test failed to meet several requirements, including failure to supply adequate financial records and failure to provide evidence supporting expenditures, an agency spokeswoman said.

Both agencies sought to recoup those grant payments through legal action taken by Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office. The foundation eventually was ordered to repay more than $1 million, but the only assets found were real estate purchased using state money. The city has since filed a demolition lien on the property, so it is unlikely the state will recover the money, said Natalie Bauer, spokeswoman for Madigan's office, on Tuesday.

Capitol Fax writers caution, "Correlation is not automatically causation," since the subpoenas are years old. Former state Sen. Rickey Hendon resigned from his post in February 2011 while the feds were turning up the heat on him. Hendon's campaign treasurer was among the seven arrested in the FBI sting two weeks ago. Howard announced last year that she would not seek reelection this fall, and Elgie Sims, the Democrat nominated to replace her, says Howard is retiring now because she wanted to get a head start on retirement.