"There Are No Gangsters in Chicago"
~ Al Capone
Everybody Knows Where The Booze (Cash) Is So You Have to Ask Yourself, What Are You Willing to Do?"
~ Sean Connery, The Untouchables
Dear Governor Rauner,
I hope both you and your lovely wife Diana are looking forward to Springfield. According to Greg Hinz, Crain's Chicago Business, you all are going to restore the Governor's residence using your own funds. On behalf of The People of The Great State of Illinois, I thank you. I am looking forward to hearing the music flow from that Steinway which one or more of your predecessors left in ruins much like the state of our finances here in Illinois.
You sir have an unprecedented, once in a lifetime opportunity to "Shake Up Springfield" and I believe that you are a man of your word because, much like when I was elected, you were not a career politician. Those people fail to understand what motivates us. I was born here, went to school here, buried my high school girlfriend here, buried my parents here, got married here, raised a family here, buried my in-laws and my six week old niece here. Then I got mad and I got elected by a margin of just one vote.
It dawned upon me that you and Leslie Munger, are going to face at The State of Illinois level what I faced at the local level. My best advice to you is to ignore the experts, especially if they have done business with or are seeking to do business with The State of Illinois because if you look at the deplorable condition of our finances, there are no experts. I'd also caution you to beware of smiling faces because quite often they tell lies.
I also understand that Treasurer-elect Mike Frerichs, a Yale educated, former county auditor is making noise about eliminating the Office Of Comptroller in order to save money while at the same time having made a commitment to, in my personal opinion, waste even more taxpayer's dollars by having "management consultants" thoroughly review the operations of The Treasurers Office for which, as far as I can determine, he has no relevant professional experience in the operations or mangament of. Perhaps the "management consultants" will educate him about Treasury Management.
As an experienced CEO, given the Comptroller's job description and the de facto state of bankruptcy we are in, I had hoped that you would have sought out the best Senior Financial Professional available to be our next Comptroller but I respect your position and the fact that it is solely your responsibility. The buck stops with you.
According to The Illinois Handbook of Government, published annually by The Secretary of State, the Comptroller’s job description reads as follows:
Office of The Comptroller
The Comptroller is the chief fiscal control officer for Illinois government, charged with maintaining the state's central fiscal accounts and ordering payments into and out of the appropriate funds. To fulfill these duties, the Comptroller has established accounting standards for use by all state agencies. Maintaining the official records regarding the state government's fiscal affairs, the Comptroller serves as a clearinghouse for financial information.
Based upon my first hand experience, I believe there are only two viable options going forward. The first is to legalize the present condition of our State which is for all intent and purposes Bankrupt. I have read where no State has ever filed for bankruptcy and that States are not included in the current federal regulations, which are subject to interpretation. I don't believe that a state can't file bankruptcy for I know that we have some of the best legal minds in the nation at one or more of the law schools we have here in Illinois and I know that nothing is impossible. Rumor has it that one State did indeed file bankruptcy in the 1800's but I have not been able to confirm that. If filing for Bankruptcy as your first major act as Governor is morally objectionable, in my experience, you need "The Untouchables". As Governor you control The Illinois State Police and The Illinois Department of Revenue. All you need is the best of the best of the best and we have the men and women in black, right here in Illinois.
As for eliminating the Office of Comptroller, it appears that one or more politicians are speaking without knowledge. In my personal opinion and experience, elimination of The Office of Comptroller would be a world class mistake. I have a copy of the Proceedings of the 1970 Constitutional Congress wherein The Office of Comptroller was created, replacing the Auditor of Public Accounts. I find it more than entertaining that Mike Frerichs, a former county auditor would promote the elimination of the system of checks and balances within the financial area of state government but then again, politics always overrules logic and commonsense. Is that what they teach them at Yale? Has he ever heard the name Paul Powell, former Secretary of State here in Illinois who after he died in 1970, a hidden shoe box full of cash and checks belonging to the taxpayers, turned tributes to the career politician into cries of outrage?
We need to move forward, not backward. I do have a number of time tested actions for whoever is going to step up and get us out of this crisis that Springfield created. The election is over. I've already had a deck chair on one of the largest corporate bankruptcies ever in Chicago and trust me, fixing our State's finances is not going to be pretty and it's not going to be fun. It's time for you, Leslie Munger, Mike Frerichs, Mike Madigan, and everyone else to get on board and fix this remake of "The Titanic" before it's too late.
Serious problems require serious people!
I am James J. Lenihan, MBA, CTM, CTP. I am a Certified Treasury Professional, a graduate of The University of Illinois and DePaul University in Chicago. I am also the son of a Chicago Firefighter who died well before his time as his Ethics and Integrity would not let him succumb to corruption, back in the day, in The Chicago Fire Department. I am also the youngest of three children of a mother widowed by the corruption in Chicago who had no choice but to do "Pay To Play" in Cook County. She died very young from lung cancer due to an uneducated and uniformed choice. She used to call me her little professor. Today, after several decades of Global Financial Management experience, I have taught Finance, Accounting and Treasury Management at four major universities here in Illinois where we are training tomorrow's Treasurers, Chief Financial Officers, Comptroller's, Auditors and Forensic Accountants today.
Disclaimer: The personal and professional opinions of the author are just that, his opinions and are not related to DePaul University, TreasuryPros or any other organization.