Gov. Bruce Rauner
Liz Gorman’s recent appointment as executive director of the Illinois Tollway was payment for helping deliver the Cook County Republican endorsement to Gov. Bruce Rauner, Republican insiders say.
“When you have the power to deliver patronage jobs, they tend to stay loyal to you,” said one Republican Party official who asked not to be identified. “When she was a Cook County commissioner, Liz had the power to deliver those jobs, and, down the line, the support for Rauner.”
Gorman was a 13-year member of the Cook County board before resigning in 2015. She will start her new job at the Illinois Tollway on March 1, according to a statement from the tollway. Her yearly salary wasn’t included in the press release announcing her hiring; however, her predecessor, Greg Bedalov, received $186,000 a year.
A spokesman for the tollway, Dan Rozek, told the Chicago Tribune that he could not provide details regarding the search for Bedalov's replacement or whether other candidates aside from Gorman were considered by the board.
Gorman has seen her share of business and political intrigue.
Republican insiders say Gorman worked behind the scenes to cut the $1.3 million deal that sent former Metra CEO Alex Clifford packing in 2013. Clifford threatened to release a memo detailing patronage hiring practices within the system and the heavy influence of the Madigan political machine on those practices. Republicans contacted for this story characterized former Metra board chair, Brad O’Halloran, as a former Gorman protégé.
Clifford was hired in 2011 to clean up Metra after an investigation revealed that former chief Phil Pagano had taken unapproved vacation pay and forged documents to cover his tracks. Pagano committed suicide in May 2010 by stepping in front of a Metra train.
Then in 2015, Gorman reportedly had a role in a land grab of some 1,500 unincorporated acres – prime real estate for development -- adjacent to Lemont.
Then-Lemont Mayor Brian Reaves told Fox 32 News the land was essentially on Lemont’s doorstep, so it should go to Lemont. But he said Cook County politicians unfairly sided with nearby Palos Park.
"When you're annexing pieces of property that's gonna truly split a town apart, the county should stay neutral on this," Reaves said.
When Fox asked if the property battle played a role in a recent vote to increase Cook County’s sales tax by a penny, Reaves said he couldn’t prove a deal was cut. But he did question why Gorman, who represented the southwest suburbs, voted present for the tax hike instead of opposing it.
"I can tell you something doesn't smell right," Reaves said. "When someone changes or goes outside their norm for voting, and the very next day resigns and someone new comes in, it sure seems like something's not right."
Gorman successor, Sean Morrison, another of her protégés, called the Reaves remarks "hogwash.”
Finally, in its story covering Gorman’s hiring by the tollway, the Tribune reported that she filed for bankruptcy days after her fall 2010 election to a third term on the county board. Her husband, a former Chrysler and Dodge dealer, filed for bankruptcy in September of that year.
“Some of the debt involved a multimillion-dollar court judgment against them stemming from a legal battle with DaimlerChrysler over financing for vehicles sold at a Dodge dealership in Midlothian they had owned,” the story said.