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Federal probe of Quinn's anti-violence program

CHICAGO (AP) — Federal prosecutors have asked for information related to Gov. Pat Quinn's troubled anti-violence program which has also been the subject of a scathing state auditor's report and a probe by the Cook County state's attorney.

Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka's spokesman Brad Hahn confirmed Thursday that the U.S. Department of Justice called the office in March to ask for details related to the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative Program and information was turned over. He declined to give further details.

"It's a legal matter," he said. "We can't comment."

Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said Quinn's office hadn't been contacted by federal officials and declined to comment further.

Word of the new probe comes as Quinn, a Chicago Democrat, is facing a tough re-election challenge from Republican Bruce Rauner. The businessman has blasted Quinn over the allegations of mismanagement along with a recent federal complaint's claims of improper hiring at Quinn's Department of Transportation. Quinn has said he moved swiftly to correct the transportation department problems.

The anti-violence program — which Quinn started in October 2010 to offer community-based job training among other things — had issues from the start.

Quinn launched it shortly before the November election after local pastors asked him to help fight street violence in Chicago, though critics called it an attempt to shore up votes ahead of a competitive race where he won by a slim margin.

Earlier this year, a state auditor's report this year outlined "pervasive deficiencies" in implementing the $55 million anti-violence program and questioned expenditures by service providers. This week Quinn's administration confirmed that the Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez's office subpoenaed records from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, which oversees community grants.

Spokesman Dave Roeder said more than 1,000 pages were turned over. He said Thursday that the office hadn't been contacted by federal officials.

Quinn has defended his motives in starting the program, saying that no money was given for it until after the election and that it was an effort to address one of Chicago's most difficult problems. He said issues in the program were addressed ahead of the auditor's report, including disbanding the agency that oversaw it.

Quinn didn't take questions Thursday after an unrelated event in Springfield.

"I identified problems myself," he told reporters Wednesday when asked about the Cook County probe. "Our government saw that that particular program needed fundamental overhaul, we abolished the agency."

Messages left for U.S. attorneys in Chicago and Springfield weren't immediately returned.


Associated Press writer Kerry Lester contributed to this report from Springfield, Illinois.

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