Unsealed records: Illinois governor oversaw fraudulent workers comp payment to ex-campaign aide

The Republican candidate for Illinois attorney general is demanding answers from the Pritzker administration.

Updated: July 21, 2022 - 11:46pm

Newly unsealed documents in a multi-pronged case dealing with alleged taxpayer fraud alleges Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office oversaw workers' compensation payments to a former state employee despite the employee’s sexual assault claims being unfounded.

The Republican candidate for Illinois attorney general is demanding answers from the Pritzker administration and Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office about the case that includes political name-dropping.

Jenny Thornley is set to be in front of a Sangamon County court this fall on multiple counts of forgery, theft and official misconduct.

Documents newly unsealed July 8 from a separate lawsuit filed by the Illinois State Police Merit Board shows Thornley misrepresented in a workers compensation claim over an unfounded sexual assault allegation that she worked for the governor when she actually worked for the Illinois State Police Merit Board.

“Thornley knowingly engaged in a scheme to defraud the State, most recently with the apparent complicity of Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, his wife, Mary Kathryn Pritker (“M.K. Pritkzer”) and the Governor’s Office,” the lawsuit filed under seal in Sangamon County in April 2021 says. “Despite having been twice proven false, Thornley continued and continues to collect benefits from the State based on the same debunked accusations against" ISP Merit Board Director Jack Garcia.

The lawsuit alleged Thornley, who worked on Pritzker’s political campaign in 2018, caused the state to pay her unearned overtime, get reimbursed for travel that did not occur, and other improper reimbursements and concealed her misconduct.

“In total, Thornley’s false statements that she entered into the State payroll system resulted in her being paid $7,114.81 in overtime in 2014 (147.5 hours); $17,770.73 in overtime in 2015 (439.5 hours); $24,736.11 in overtime in 2016 (444 hours); $6,885.93 in overtime in 2017 (141 hours); and $10,563.56 in overtime in 2019 (46 hours),” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit also described alleged participation by the Pritzker’s office.

“In February 2020, Thornley made a workers’ compensation claim based on ‘psychological injury’ that she said resulted from the assault by Garcia that did not happen according to two different investigations,” the lawsuit claims. “However, Thornley did not make this claim to the Merit Board, which employed her. Instead, leveraging her relationship with the Pritzkers, Thornley made the claim directly to the Governor’s General Counsel, Spillane. And Spillane accepted that claim and processed it, even though the claim falsely listed Thornley’s employer as the Governor’s Office rather than the Merit Board.

“Thornley also claimed that the Governor was her direct supervisor and she provided multiple phone numbers to confirm this with Governor Pritzker himself. Of course, these statements were false, as Spillane would have had to know. Spillane nonetheless pressed the claim forward,” the lawsuit said.

In one document, Thornley is said to have sent a text to First Lady M.K. Pritkzer on Feb. 2, 2020, saying “I have a horrible incident that has taken place. I sent a lengthy email to Anne Caprara and got a return call from [Pritzker general counsel Anne Spillane]. I need JB to know what’s going on and hope they are keeping him aware.”

Republican attorney general candidate Tom DeVore wants to know why Raoul intervened in the lawsuit being sought by the merit board.

“What does Attorney General Kwame Raoul do? He asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit that was trying to get to the bottom of what the governor’s office had done with this lady and her workmans comp and her overtime,” DeVore said. “Dismiss the lawsuit.”

With the case from the merit board dismissed in March 2022, the court ordered the entire court file to be unsealed July 8, 2022.

The criminal case against Thornley continues in Sangamon Oct. 11.

DeVore said there needs to be answers of what the governor’s office knew and what actions they took.

“Why did they pay her the money after we had already proven that she was not sexually assaulted, why, why, why, why, why?” DeVore said. “Those questions need to be answered by the media. They need to be answered by the attorney general’s office or they need to be answered by the district attorney for the Central District of Illinois and the federal prosecutors office. Somebody needs to answer these questions because this is the exact reason why our state is corrupt.”

Messages seeking comment from Thornley’s public defender, from the governor’s office and Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office were not immediately returned.