Senator Tim Bivins is calling on the Illinois Attorney General to investigate a $10 million state grant awarded to a film studio just weeks before former Governor Pat Quinn left office, and start the proceedings necessary to get the money back if the grant is not being used for its stated purpose.
A March 21 report by the Chicago Sun-Times shows that Cinespace Chicago Film Studios was awarded a $10 million grant from Governor Quinn in December 2014 for the stated purpose of buying industrial land around its west-side studio facility where TV shows and movies are produced.
“Despite Illinois being billions of dollars in debt, Governor Quinn spent money we clearly do not have. And it appears that this money is not even being used for its stated purpose,” Senator Bivins said. “I am asking Attorney General Lisa Madigan or her designee to look into this situation immediately and determine what is needed to get the money returned to Illinois taxpayers. That $10 million could be better used to pay long-overdue bills.”
Senator Bivins said the Sun-Times is reporting that the $10 million grant to Cinespace for land acquisition has not yet been used to purchase land, and the landowners listed in the grant application have indicated they are not interested in selling their land.
In its March 21 article, the Sun-Times also noted a number of issues about the process by which the grant was awarded:
1. Quinn’s administration gave Cinespace the $10 million without any appraisals to justify the projected purchase prices listed by the studio’s owners.
2. The former governor’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity had nothing to show that Cinespace had pending contracts to buy any of the properties or had been in negotiations to buy them.
3. The state agency gave Cinespace the ability to buy just about any land it wants, allowing it to “substitute properties . . . in the event the applicant is unable to successfully negotiate the purchase of the listed properties.” Cinespace would need the state’s permission to do so. It has not asked for that.
4. The grant went out even though the studio’s owners had trouble complying with reporting requirements on another grant the studio had gotten under Quinn. In 2012, the state sent Cinespace four “not in compliance” letters. The state then suspended the $1.3 million construction grant because the studio hadn’t turned in “project status reports” on time — an issue that wasn’t resolved until March 2014, records show. Even as the Quinn administration was sending those letters, the state gave the studio three other grants totaling $16 million. ”
“There are a number of questions that need to be answered. Along with Representative David McSweeney of Barrington Hills, I am also asking Illinois Auditor General Bill Holland to look into this matter,” Senator Bivins said. “What strikes me most is the complete and utter disregard Governor Quinn seemed to have for the resources provided by Illinois taxpayers. Spending this money, knowing full well our current fiscal situation, is unconscionable.”