By Andrew Thomason | Illinois Statehouse News
SPRINGFIELD — Indicted state Rep. Derrick Smith
will likely get a respite from his House
colleagues through the end of the Legislature
’s spring session.
Several members of the House Special Investigative Committee looking into federal bribery allegations against the Chicago Democrat said chances of the committee meeting before the spring session ends May 31 are slim.
“As you can imagine, things are a little hectic around here right now," said state Rep. Elaine Nekritz
, chairwoman of the investigative committee. "My time is very limited by the whole pension thing. Everyone else’s time is taken up by the end-of-session crunch.”
Nekritz is also part of a group of legislators negotiating cost-saving changes to the Illinois public pension system, which is facing a $83 billion unfunded liability.
In fact, Smith has been busy taking advantage of a legislative perk that’s about to expire.
Gov. Pat Quinn
said in a news release he would sign the bill abolishing the century-old program.
Scholarships handed out before Sept. 1 won't be revoked, according to the legislation.
State Rep. Jil Tracy
, a member of the investigative committee, called Smith’s awarding of the scholarships “very troubling.” Despite Smith’s actions, she said, the committee must be careful about setting a precedent for investigating and possibly disciplining a member who has been charged, but not convicted, of a crime.
“We have to move cautionary. It’s a little bit of uncharted territory,” Tracy said.
But Nekritz said the committee would be meeting sooner, rather than later. She didn't offer specifics.
Smith’s attorney, Victor Henderson
of Henderson Adam LLC
in Chicago, told the committee two weeks ago the representative was due back in court May 30 to ask the federal government to release the full recordings being used against Smith, instead of taped snippets. Henderson said at the hearing that the full recordings would vindicate Smith.
Calls to Henderson’s office for this story were not returned.
Smith won a primary election earlier this year for the House District 10 after his arrest, and is still on the ballot for the Nov. 6 general election. Democrats have formed the Unity Party to challenge Smith in the November election and narrowed a field eight potential candidates Tuesday to Lance Tyson, Melissa Conyears and Eddie White.