Two top executives are out at tollway

  • Tollway Board Chairman Will Evans

    Tollway Board Chairman Will Evans Daily Herald file photo

  • Two top staffers are out at the Illinois tollway as the board chairman reorganizes the administration.

    Two top staffers are out at the Illinois tollway as the board chairman reorganizes the administration. Daily Herald File Photo

 
 
Updated 11/3/2021 12:58 AM

Two Illinois tollway executives hand-picked by Executive Director Jose Alvarez in 2019 are out as a leadership shake-up led by the board chairman continues at the agency.

Tollway officials confirmed that Chief Procurement Compliance Officer Dee Brookens and Chief Administrative Officer Kimberly Ross "are no longer with the tollway." Records show their most recent pay date was Friday.

 

Both were former colleagues of Alvarez at the Chicago Housing Authority. Brooks was "critical towards our goal of strengthening our procurement compliance and contract oversight," Alvarez said in summer 2019 as the tollway restructured under Gov. J.B. Pritzker's new administration.

Chairman Will Evans also pledged to improve procurement policies last month, however, his reorganization plan, which was approved by board directors, is minus those two key Alvarez staffers.

On Oct. 21, the tollway board delegated authority to Evans to reorganize the tollway administration and duties.

He subsequently made Chief Financial Officer Cathy Williams, a longtime employee, report to the chairman and board, as well as the executive director. Evans also switched Brooken's direct boss from Alvarez to CFO Williams, according to tollway documents.

The changes "will improve procurement efficiency" and allow for more control of spending, Evans said in an email.

More than two years ago, Alvarez created three new procurement positions that paid about $512,000 a year in salaries and hired former CHA co-workers to fill them.

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At the time, the intent was to "streamline and strengthen the agency's procurement and compliance processes," officials said.

The tollway board held a special board meeting Tuesday and spent about five hours in executive session but did not make any public comments about the overhaul.

"Technically, high-level executives like finance, purchasing, etc. are in regular contact with the board at meetings, but it does not seem to facilitate organizational operations to insert the chairman into the operational chain of command," said former tollway director and state Sen. Bill Morris of Grayslake.

Tollway spokesman Dan Rozek said "the recent changes were not related to any particular issue. As with any good organization, continual improvement of governance and internal controls is an imperative part of the ongoing building of the organization."

Brookens could not be reached for comment.

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