Democratic congressional candidate Robin Kelly defended herself from a state inspector general’s report and an internal audit that alleged she violated timekeeping rules during her failed campaign for state treasurer in 2010.
Speaking after a South Side candidate forum Wednesday night, Kelly said her boss at the time, Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, “knew what I was doing. I was in full communication” with him about the time she took off to campaign to succeed him. “I did not do anything wrong.”
Kelly, who served as Giannoulias’ chief of staff during her unsuccessful bid for state treasurer, acknowledged the office’s inspector general, David Wells, had recommended Giannoulias suspend her over timekeeping discrepancies.
But Kelly argued that Wells was “not my boss, and no one else backed him up.”
“I'm not perfect,” Kelly added. “I'm not going to tell you I didn't make a mistake, but I did not do anything wrong. I turned in my time sheets. I docked my pay. I did everything I was supposed to do. And nothing was founded by anyone who counts.”
Kelly, who also is a former state lawmaker who quit to work for Giannoulias, has emerged as the momentum candidate in Tuesday’s special Democratic primary election in the 2nd Congressional District.
The primary contest, a result of Jesse Jackson Jr.’s resignation from Congress, is likely to decide the next representative in the South Side and south suburban district, given its large Democratic leanings.
Kelly’s candidacy is backed by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun super political action committee, Independence USA. The super PAC is the biggest spender in the race, putting in $2.1 million, largely in funding the only broadcast TV ads in the expensive Chicago market.
On Wednesday, the Tribune cited public records it obtained to report that Wells recommended Kelly be disciplined by Giannoulias. Wells also recommended Giannoulias’ successor as state treasurer, Republican Dan Rutherford, conduct an internal audit of Kelly’s time. The audit alleged that 82 percent of the time, Kelly did not receive a superior’s approval for time off. She also routinely did not receive prior approval to get time off, the audit found.
Kelly again dismissed the investigation as a “witch hunt,” even though Giannoulias followed Wells’ recommendation and disciplined two other employees in connection with the inspector general’s investigation of Kelly’s use of time off. Additionally, Giannoulias reappointed Wells to the inspector general’s post during his tenure and the auditor who conducted the audit also worked for the then-Democratic treasurer.
One of Kelly's rivals in the race, former one-term U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson of Crete, said the fact that Kelly was a “central figure of (a) horrible ethics investigation by the State of Illinois ... continues to show her inability to serve in this congressional district that has had nothing but shame, embarrassment and misdeeds.”
Giannoulias declined comment.