It’s been 2 years since an email made available by an open-records request to Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker’s office set off alarm, resulting in John Sullivan resigning from the head of the State Ag Department. One of the individuals mentioned in the emails is finally speaking out.
The governor’s office released a 2012 email exchange between now-indicted former Commonwealth Edison lobbyist Michael McClain of Quincy and two top aides to then-Gov. Pat Quinn. McClain was seeking leniency for a former state employee, Forrest Ashby of Quincy, in a pending disciplinary case at a Department of Human Services facility in Rushville where Ashby was an administrator.
McClain vouched for Ashby, then an Illinois Department of Human Services executive, as “loyal” to the Quinn administration and noted, as apparent attributes, that Ashby had “kept his mouth shut” about “ghost workers” and a “rape in Champaign.”
WBEZ in Chicago released an interview yesterday with Ashby discussing the email, the ensuing scandal that followed, and criminal investigations and legislative hearings. In the interview, Ashby told WBEZ he knew nothing at all about the alleged rape or what it entailed, said he was “shocked” to learn of McClain’s reference to it and only learned about the assertion when McClain himself reached out as WBEZ was making the email public. “The rape in Champaign” continues to be a mystery, as McClain has refused to speak to investigators and Ashby says he doesn’t know what it’s in reference to.
Ashby said fallout from the allegation has taken a toll on him and his family in Quincy. Ashby, whom he considered McClain to be a close friend, has dissolved the relationship. Ashby has faced no criminal charges as a result of the email. Ashby, who was working as consultant with the state Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board at the time the email came out, had his contract terminated with the state the next week. Ashby told WBEZ that he, like many of the public, are still awaiting McClain to explain himself about what he exactly he meant by the email.