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Tollway gets new chief investigator
By Marni Pyke | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 1/9/2010 12:00 AM

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The Illinois tollway has appointed a retired top FBI agent to head up investigations and audits.

James W. Wagner, 66, who previously directed the Chicago Crime Commission, became the tollway's general manager of investigations and audits effective Monday.

"He brings a wealth of experience to our agency as a seasoned investigator with a diverse history," Illinois State Toll Highway Authority spokeswoman Joelle McGinnis said.

Wagner served as an FBI agent from 1969 to 2000 in Chicago, New York and Little Rock, finishing his career as supervisor of the organized crime section. He worked as deputy administrator of investigations for the Illinois Gaming Board from 2000 through 2005, then president of the Crime Commission until 2008.

Duties at the tollway will include rooting out fraud and corruption, conducting internal investigations, internal audits, correction of mismanagement and misconduct and supervising staff.

Wagner essentially replaces the previous tollway inspector general who has come under scrutiny by the Illinois attorney general's office. Inspector General Tracy Smith resigned unexpectedly from her position in August.

A spokesman for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said the agency was "seriously concerned about her conduct" in light of revelations that Smith was a college friend of former tollway Chairman John Mitola's wife.

Smith, as part of her job, supervised ethics investigations including complaints that involved Mitola.

Mitola called any questions of impropriety unfounded and ridiculous, and Smith said there was no conflict of interest.

The position of inspector general was being re-engineered because of a change in state law, McGinnis said.

Wagner's salary will be $130,000. Wagner was hired by Acting Executive Director Michael King and tollway board members were aware of it although the issue was not discussed in public at tollway meetings.