Democratic chair of House committee investigating Speaker Michael Madigan accuses GOP of ‘wearing two hats,’ says no more meetings until after election

Accusing his Republican counterparts of engaging in “political theater” ahead of the Nov. 3 election, the Democratic chairman of a special Illinois House committee investigating the conduct of longtime Speaker Michael Madigan said Tuesday that the panel won’t meet again until the polls close.

Emanuel Chris Welch et al. looking at a laptop: State Rep. Emanuel "Chris" Welch addresses issues concerning seclusion in Chicago Public Schools during a meeting of the Illinois State Board of Education at the Thompson Center in Chicago, Nov. 22, 2019.

© Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS
State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch addresses issues concerning seclusion in Chicago Public Schools during a meeting of the Illinois State Board of Education at the Thompson Center in Chicago, Nov. 22, 2019.

State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch of Hillside said in a statement that the three GOP lawmakers on the special investigating committee, formed in response to a petition from House Republican leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs, “are wearing two hats.”

“While sitting on a committee that is charged with conducting an impartial investigation based on the petition filed by Leader Durkin, the Republican members of this committee are also engaged in competitive political campaigns in which they have chosen to campaign almost exclusively against the speaker,” Welch said.

Welch took issue in particular with two committee members, Reps. Grant Wehrli of Naperville and Deanne Mazzochi of Elmhurst, participating in a campaign news conference on Monday, “effectively confirming their assumption of guilt and chiding Democratic opponents for not jumping to the same conclusion.”

Wehrli and Mazzochi are both engaged in competitive reelection battles against Democratic challengers who have received sizable campaign contributions from funds tied to Madigan, who also chairs the state Democratic Party.

Republicans have accused Welch of acting in defense of Madigan by blocking a vote last week to issue subpoenas to compel testimony from the powerful Southwest Side Democrat and other witnesses.

Earlier Tuesday, the leading Republican on the committee, Rep. Tom Demmer of Dixon, accused Welch of trying to slow-walk the investigating by requesting “a data dump” from Commonwealth Edison, which is at the center of the investigation

Durkin petitioned for the creation of the rarely used special investigating committee after ComEd in July admitted in a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. attorney’s office that it engaged in a yearslong bribery scheme aimed at currying favor with Madigan.

The only witness to testify before the committee to date, an executive with ComEd parent Exelon, confirmed that, among other actions, the utility paid Madigan associates through third-party companies despite the fact that they did little or no work.

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The committee is tasked with determining whether Madigan should be charged with engaging in “conduct unbecoming to a legislator” and face potential discipline.

While Republicans on the committee sought documents from ComEd pertaining to its communications with Madigan and close associate, Welch has requested a decade’s worth of documents detailing the company’s dealings with the administration of Gov. J.B. Pritzker and his two predecessors and the with current and former leaders of all four caucuses of the General Assembly.

Emanuel Chris Welch wearing a suit and tie: State Rep. Emanuel "Chris" Welch addresses the issues concerning seclusion in Chicago Public Schools at the Thompson Center in Chicago on Nov. 22, 2019.

© Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS
State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch

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Gonzales Garden Club gets back to talking about gardening through virtual meetings | Ascension

While the coronavirus has forced many people to cancel plans and activities, gardeners have had more time to tend to their flowers, shrubs and plants.

Members of the Gonzales Garden Club talked about the measures they took to keep their plants growing during a Sept. 2 meeting. However, it wasn’t their usual gathering.

After months of suspended activities, the Gonzales Garden Club turned to the internet for its first meeting for the 2020-21 season.

Fourteen members attended virtually with the promise that more members will access the video conferencing program next month. President Jamie Trisler followed the routine schedule of the pledge, prayer, roll call, old and new business and featured program presentation.

Members cited examples of the impact the pandemic has had on their gardens. Many said their time spent at home resulted in outdoor success. Some stayed away from plant nurseries and bought seeds online; others propagated from what regrew or had young loved ones bring them plants and mulch. A few ventured out to nurseries with masks as their only “essential” outings.

After recurrent family setbacks, Dale Bowman was able to “get all caught up” in her beds this summer. Janis D’Benedetto concentrated on vegetable gardening and grew “more than enough tomatoes.” Conchita Richey noted that she “worked in the garden the entire time. It was my salvation.” Gwen Heck said her five-year-old garden is now “the best it’s ever looked.”

The program this month was “Pollinator Plants” by member Mary Jo Pohlig. She presented photos of 26 of her plants that attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds and gave unique details about each, commenting on their growth habits and needs. Her favorite easy-to-grow pollinator plants are Mexican flame vine, purple porterweed and zinnias because of how much wildlife loves them. Other reliable sun-loving bloomers include begonia, cassia, cat’s whiskers, cigar plant, coleus, fennel, globe amaranth, hibiscus, hyssop, ironweed, milkweed, moon flowers, passion vine, penta, pride of Barbados and salvia.

Pollinator plants that acclimate to shade are black-eyed Susan, firespike, guara, impatiens and Turk’s cap. Prolific pollinator plants that spread are black-eyed Susan, lyreleaf sage, mistflower, ruellia, trailing lantana and yarrow.

Pohlig toured her garden in real-time using the camera and microphone of her iPad to transmit the images of her flourishing beds. Members were able to ask questions and get answers about Pohlig’s garden practices. “To have success with these kinds of plants, fertilize thoroughly in the spring then add doses of specialty fertilizers a couple of times during the summer,” she said. Besides using fertilizer and mulch, her best advice is to “find the right place for the right plant.”

In addition to membership in the Gonzales Garden Club, Pohlig belongs to the Ascension Master Gardener Association, Sundowner’s African Violet Society, African Violet Society of America, National Audubon Society and Louisiana Ornithological Society. She is vice president of GGC plus serves on committees that plan projects and maintain community gardens.

Member Barbara McCormick presented a floral design, which is customary at in-person monthly meetings. She used

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