A newly unsealed legal filing has revealed foul play on the part of Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker – with a state official claiming the governor secretly had the state pay a former campaign aide who was fired after she was caught stealing from taxpayers.
Jenny Thornley was the chief financial officer and director of legislative policy for the Illinois State Police Merit Board, an anti-patronage agency which exists to “remove political influence and provide a fair and equitable merit process.”
She bragged on her resume that she has “been heavily involved with the following IL races at a high level, Cheri Bustos, Tammy Duckworth, Susana Mendoza, JB Pritzker… and many more,” according to court documents.
Court documents further reveal that in January 2020, Thornley’s boss, Jack Garcia, wrote to the Merit Board’s chairman that he had caught Thornley forging his signature to pad her salary with overtime.
Then-Program Administrator Emily Fox — who is now the Merit Board’s executive director and who filed the lawsuit — said, in one example, Thornley billed for 32.5 hours in overtime in September 2019 even though camera footage showed that not only did she not work overtime, but she frequently left during regular hours.
On January 27, 2020, Thornley texted a mutual friend of hers and Garcia’s and told him, “Garcia does not know who he is messing with, and that the Governor’s office would get involved if Mr. Garcia did not back off,” according to an affidavit.
Four days later, Thornley filed a workers compensation claim saying she had suffered bruising and PTSD from being sexually assaulted by Garcia on January 23, the day after Garcia reported her alleged embezzlement.
On the claim form, she listed that the “Governor’s office,” was her employer, saying she worked directly for Pritzker.
A separate investigation later discovered that the very next day, Thornley emailed the governor’s chief of staff Anne Caprara; that she spoke on the phone with Pritzker’s general counsel, Ann Spillane, and said she “looks at the Pritzkers as friends.”
On February 3, the Merit Board moved to fire Thornley and seek criminal prosecution, but the governor’s office advised the board to hold off on firing Thornley and instead put both her and Garcia on leave.
The governor’s office also advised the Merit Board to hire the law firm of McGuire Woods to do an independent investigation.
McGuire Woods conducted a thorough investigation costing $550,000, the lawsuit says.
As it dragged on, Thornley would continue getting paid and the Merit Board had no leader even though he had passed a lie detector test corroborating that he did not sexually assault her.
McGuire Woods produced a 133-page report concluding that the evidence showed that Thornley stole from taxpayers, and that it did not support that Garcia sexually assaulted her, at this point she was finally fired.
But in September 2020, it was discovered that Thornley had been receiving workers comp even though she had already been terminated and though this would normally require the Merit Board, her employer, to be aware of it and have the opportunity to challenge it – the board had no idea.
Instead, the claim was being handled directly by Kevin Richey at Central Management Services (CMS), an office close to the governor.
“Mr. Richey stated he has the authority to override any case, which he did in this particular case,” Fox wrote.
“Mr. Richey reiterated he could not provide detailed information, but that the Governor’s Office was involved in all communication and decisions regarding this case… stating that he must be ‘evasive’ with me.” Thornley was being paid 75% of her salary, “tax free with benefits and insurance coverage,” Fox added.
The lawsuit said. “There is no reason the Governor’s Office should be involved in Thornley’s schemes, except for Thornley’s personal and political relationships with the Governor and/or M.K. Pritzker.”
Four of the five Merit Board members have since been replaced at the direction of the state’s corrupt governor.