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UPDATED: Appointments pulled for 2 members of Prisoner Review Board

UPDATED: Appointments pulled for 2 members of Prisoner Review Board

GOP senator cries foul, says board members have been serving without confirmation

By BETH HUNDSDORFER
Capitol News Illinois
bhundsdorfer@capitolnewsillinois.com

SPRINGFIELD – Gov. JB Pritzker yanked the appointment of two appointees to the Illinois Prisoner Review Board Tuesday, the same morning a Senate committee was scheduled to consider them.

It was the second time Pritzker pulled the appointments of Aurthur Mae Perkins, 83, of Peoria, and Joseph Ruggiero, 62, of Wheaton, for the Illinois Prisoner Review Board. The two, both appointees originally made by Republican former Gov. Bruce Rauner, have served on the Prisoner Review Board without Senate confirmation for nearly three years each.

“Between the two of them, I think they have served a combined six years on the Prisoner Review Board, raking in approximately a half-million dollars in taxpayer funded salary,” said Sen. Jason Plummer, R-Edwardsville.

Plummer told the committee he heard appointments for Perkins and Ruggiero were pulled on Tuesday morning – just before the committee hearing began.

“Do you know why they are withdrawn?” he asked Committee Chairperson Laura Murphy, D-Des Plaines.

“Senator, we are in compliance with the Senate Rules,” she replied.

The PRB is a 15-person body appointed by the governor. It has the authority to grant, deny or determine conditions of parole, and it must notify victims and families when an inmate is going to be released from custody. The board also imposes release conditions and makes recommendations on pardon and clemency petitions to the governor.

Perkins is a former teacher, principal and adjunct faculty member at Bradley University. She currently serves on the Peoria Housing Authority Board and the Peoria Citizen’s Committee for Economic Opportunity as a board member. Perkins was originally appointed to the Prisoner Review Board by Rauner in March 2015.

Ruggiero was appointed by Rauner in September 2018 to fill the vacancy left by Tom Johnson, who left the position before his term was up. Ruggiero was appointed to finish out Johnson’s term, then reappointed by Pritzker on March 21, 2019, for a new term once it ended.

Ruggiero served as a prosecutor for 30 years in the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office, handling high-profile murder cases. He prosecuted Michael Whitney for the stabbing death of student Darlene Stack. He also prosecuted Marilyn Lemak, who was convicted of murdering her three children.

Lemak and Whitney both received life sentences for their respective crimes, and they remain in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Senate rules allow the governor to withdraw an appointment and reappoint an individual if the Senate fails to vote on a nominee within 60 session days of the governor’s filing of the appointment.

This practice has been used by previous governors.

Plummer filed a bill, Senate Bill 3670, that would require the Senate to confirm or deny PRB members within 30 session days or 90 calendar days after appointment, whichever comes first. The bill would also prohibit reappointing a person to the PRB for two years after their appointment is withdrawn.

That bill was introduced in January but remains in the Senate Assignments Committee and has no cosponsors. The bill was previously filed as Senate Bill 1475, which had several Republican cosponsors.

Perkins and Ruggiero are two of nine members of the Prisoner Review Board that have not been confirmed by the Senate. Other Prisoner Review Board members awaiting confirmation are Oreal James, Eleanor Wilson, Max Cerda, Jeffery Mears, Kenneth Tupy, Jared Bohland and LeAnn Miller.

James and Wilson were appointed on April 2, 2019. Their appointments were withdrawn on March 23, 2021. They were reappointed two days later.

Cerda and Mears were appointed on March 19, 2021. Cerda is the first ex-offender to be appointed to the Prisoner Review Board. Convicted of double murder and attempted murder in 1979 at the age of 16, Cerda was paroled in 1998. He works with an ex-offender initiative in Chicago, helping offenders transition to life outside of prison.

Tupy previously served as legal counsel for the board but was appointed to serve as a member of it on May 3. Bohland was appointed on May 6. Lee Ann Miller was appointed on Sept. 2.

Plummer questioned Sen. Murphy about the repeated delays regarding the approval of PRB members specifically.

“I just don’t understand why there is such a cavalier attitude towards public safety and the Prisoner Review Board,” Plummer said.

“There is not, Senator,” Murphy responded. “That's a misstatement. There is no cavalier attitude. We intentionally follow the Senate rules. We could not have anticipated the wrath of a pandemic that hit not only this state, but the entire country. So therefore, the Senate clocks have been delayed somewhat. But we still follow the Senate rules and follow, to the letter, the Senate rules and the clock. No appointee goes past their 60-day cycle without going before the Senate.”

The committee hearing Tuesday, in which the PRB appointees were not heard, lasted over two hours.

“Why is it that the impact of the pandemic has been so dramatic on the Prisoner Review Board? But yet we sat here for two-and-a-half hours voting on and hearing testimony from so many other appointees?” Plummer said. “I mean, the only group that this happens to is the Prisoner Review Board. Why is that so?”

Pritzker’s office did not respond to questions regarding possible future appointments to the PRB. Murphy said during the hearing there are vacancies on the Prisoner Review Board and the governor is currently conducting interviews to fill them. 

At a news conference Wednesday morning, Pritzker blamed the Senate for the failure to approve appointments.

"Only because they don't get taken up by the committee that's supposed to take those up," he said when asked about the appointments. "So you know, we're at the whim of the Senate and their decision about whether to take up and when to take up proposed members."

Editor's note: The headline of this article has been updated from a previous version which incorrectly stated the appointments were reissued. We regret the error. We've also added a quote from Pritzker's Wednesday news conference.

 

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

 

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