State Sen. Martin Sandoval should resign as chairman of the Senate's Transportation Committee until federal investigators complete a probe into allegations of bribery and theft.
Sandoval has yet to speak publicly about the raids of his home and offices last week. While all Americans are entitled to the presumption of innocence and a zealous defense, elected officials under the federal microscope for possible felonies shouldn't get to enjoy the business-as-usual approach.
Illinois can ill afford the specter of more public corruption, especially as it prepares to spend $45 billion on road and infrastructure projects that are funded, in part, by higher gas taxes and motor vehicle fees.
If Sandoval won't resign his chairmanship of the powerful Transportation Committee, then Illinois Senate President John Cullerton should force his hand. And if Cullerton fails to act, the Democratic Party of Illinois should make it happen. At least until the federal investigation has concluded.
Sandoval has yet to be charged with a crime, so asking for him to resign from his elected position would be extreme. Stepping down as chairman, however, makes sense given the nature of the probe.
Cullerton has said he likes to make informed decisions, but he's done little to protect the state's upper chamber from the appearance of impropriety amid federal investigations into two of the body's committee leaders.
When state Sen. Tom Cullerton was indicted earlier this summer on charges he embezzled from a union, John Cullerton relieved his distant relative of his leadership of the Senate's Labor Committee. Although Tom Cullerton was made chairman of another committee, at least he wasn't heading up the Labor Committee. That makes some sense.
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On Wednesday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Sandoval should step down as the leader of the Senate's Transportation Committee.
“It’s in the best interest of our state that he no longer serves as chairman of the Transportation Committee,” Pritzker said. “If he doesn’t step aside, he should be removed.”
The governor said the Senate President was aware of his position.
Yes, the senate president should make informed decisions. But how long should he wait to address the Sandoval investigation?
Not much longer.
The search warrant federal investigators obtained to raid Sandoval's offices in Springfield isn't proof of a crime, but it certainly calls for prudence. When the leader of the Transportation Committee is being investigated and the FBI pays a visit to a well-connected sand and gravel contractor, there's a chance something is afoot.
Illinois has seen far too many instances of public corruption. Prudent action should be taken to ensure taxpayer dollars aren't wasted.
And the senate president should do what he can to shield the legislature from the appearance of impropriety.
Brett Rowland is Illinois editor of The Center Square, a project of the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity, a non-profit media company dedicated to the principles of transparency, accountability and fiscal responsibility. His columns include his own opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinion or editorial position of The Southern. Contact Brett at firstname.lastname@example.org.