Chicago News Roundup: Former Pritzker Toll Chair Accused of Running Contracts and Hiring Friends, Wakandacon Founder’s Next Move and More


Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. This is a roughly five minute read that will educate you on today’s biggest stories.

This afternoon will be cloudy with a chance of drizzle and a high near 59 degrees. Similar weather will continue through tonight with lows near 45. Tomorrow will be sunny with highs near 67.

top story

Former Pritzker toll chair charged in lawsuit with trying to run contracts and hire friends at the agency

Shortly after taking office in 2019, Governor JB Pritzker signed legislation that restructures the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority, promising “transparency and accountability” and declaring, “Our new leadership will uphold the highest ethical standards. high, will bring value to taxpayers and serve Illinois in every corner of our state.

A new lawsuit filed by two former top toll officials paints a different picture of the state agency under the Pritzker-chosen team, accusing former board chairman Will Evans of trying directing contracts to favored companies and engaging in patronage hiring.

“After an initial honeymoon phase, beginning in late 2020 and continuing through 2021, Evans, with the help of new Toll General Counsel Kathleen Pasulka-Brown, began trying to exercise enormous control over the toll’s operations and, in doing so, violated several state laws and toll policies,” according to the lawsuit, filed in DuPage County by Kimberly Ross and Dionna Brookens.

“Some highway executives allowed this to happen while others, including plaintiffs” and the agency’s top administrator, then executive director Jose Alvarez, “tried to stop it.”

Ross and Brookens say in the lawsuit that they were fired in retaliation for doing this and that Pasulka-Brown took the unusual step of sending Illinois State Police to Brookens’ home “to retrieve his toll property”.

Evans, a former People’s Gas executive who resigned from his toll post in February following a power struggle with Alvarez, among other controversies, could not be reached for comment.

Pritzker appointed Evans and Alvarez to the toll in 2019 after signing legislation, backed by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, that he said would reform the agency. Alvarez resigned last March.

Pasulka-Brown, who was appointed to the tollbooth in 2019 by Attorney General Kwame Raoul with Evans’ consent, declined to comment.

A lawyer for Ross and Brookens said “neither I nor my clients will comment” on the lawsuit, which names Toll, Evans and Pasulka-Brown as defendants.

A Pritzker spokeswoman said last Friday, “The administration is not commenting on the ongoing litigation and had not seen the trial until yesterday. We take all allegations of wrongdoing seriously and will not tolerate any violation of state law. . . . The governor is committed to ensuring that the toll highway operates efficiently and ethically.

Robert Herguth says more about the charges against Evans here.

More news you need

  1. Northern Indiana police today announced murder charges in connection with the February 2017 murders of Liberty German, 14, and Abigail Williams, 13. Richard Allen, 50, of Delphi , Indiana, has been charged with two counts of murder, authorities said. Our Mitch Dudek has more on this tragic case that has plagued a community for years.
  2. A Chicago police supervisor retired earlier this month amid an investigation into racist and other inflammatory comments he made on a Facebook account he falsely claimed was hacked. Police Lt. John Cannons resigned nearly a year after the Civilian Office of Police Accountability found he had shown “flagrant disregard” for department policies and recommended his dismissal.
  3. Democratic State Comptroller Susana Mendoza and State Treasurer Michael Frerichs face challenges from Republicans Shannon Teresi and Tom Demmer and Libertarians Deirdre McCloskey and Preston Nelson. Our Allison Novelo breaks down what you need to know about these six candidates battling for two positions here.
  4. Faculty and professional staff at City Colleges of Chicago have reached a tentative agreement on a new union contract and called off their scheduled strike later this week. Workers represented by the Cook County College Teachers Union had been negotiating for more than a year with municipal college administrators over wages, class sizes and other educational supports.
  5. ‘Game of Thrones’ author George RR Martin has donated $5 million to Northwestern University. The donation from Martin, a Medill School alumnus, will fund a writers’ workshop and a faculty position for undergraduate and graduate students, the school announced today.
  6. Ready or not, Christmas music will begin tomorrow on Chicago station WLIT-FM (93.9). This is Lite FM’s first move to holiday jingles to date.
  7. To some, it may come as a surprise to learn that pro wrestling once made Chicago its king of the ring. Our Curious City colleagues from WBEZ recount how promoters used television and heavy-handed trade deals to put the city on the pro wrestling map.
  8. Finally, if you’ve been shopping for Halloween candy this year, you may have noticed that the prices for sweets have skyrocketed. Thanks to inflation, candy prices are up 14% from a year ago, the largest one-year price increase since 1999, according to a report by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

A bright

He brought Wakandacon to Chicago, now David Barthwell is creating his own world

David Barthwell isn’t afraid to try his hand at great things.

He envisioned Wakandacon, a convention dedicated to all things “Black Panther” held at McCormick Place in 2018 and 2019. He’s looking to resurrect the costume show next year at the Sheraton Grand Chicago Riverwalk.

But the experience of bringing Wakanda to Chicago made him want to create his own world.

So the Oak Park and River Forest High School graduate has teamed up with a classmate from Yale University to form a game company and create a living sci-fi tale that he hopes will it, will capture the imagination of gamers when it releases in 2023.

His college friend is Kevin Lin, co-founder of streaming platform Twitch and a good guy to know in order to raise a $24 million seed round from tech investors.

David Barthwell is designing a futuristic computer game called “Twilight Shift”.

Tyler Pasciak LaRivière/Sun-Times

“I learned a lot from Wakandacon, meeting people and seeing how people came together to celebrate a black superhero and all the energy around him. And I started thinking about telling stories that aren’t told a lot and how, hopefully, I could one day create a world of stories that stands alongside that and give back the way that “Black Panther “did it,” Barthwell said.

Their company is called Metatheory, and the game they’re forging is called Twilight Shift. The complex characters navigate a futuristic Earth depleted in resources and a mysterious alien spaceship that has appeared above a city in Central Africa. The city will largely resemble Chicago.

The company has 60 employees worldwide who collaborate in a predominantly work-from-home model. But they also have offices.

“The hope is to create really immersive, living worlds that fans can occupy, they can learn the lore, play and really feel deeply and see themselves reflected in that world,” Barthwell, 40, said.

Our Mitch Dudek has more of his interview with Barthwell here.

From the press gallery

Your daily question☕

What should every Chicagoan prepare for winter here?

Email us at [email protected] and we might feature your response in the next afternoon edition.

On Friday, we asked you: what’s the best Halloween costume you’ve ever worn?

Here’s what some of you said…

“The clown costume my mom made. It fits over my winter coat. — Linda JenaFisher

“The year our dad made robots out of paper grocery bags for me and my brother.” — Kathey Koziol

“I went to a Halloween party at work as a flush toilet. I would like to have a photo of it. I tied a toilet seat around my waist so that when I sat down the seat was in my lap. I carried a white box on my upper body (the tank) and added a flush handle on the side, and on top I stuck a roll of toilet paper and a men’s magazine. Won first prize. I almost forgot, I recorded the sound of a flushing toilet and played it periodically from a little tape player I had. — David Wiegers

“When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I made costumes for my husband and I. He was the bumblebee and I was the flower. We won an award for originality. Harriet Meader

“I wore a FedEx Ground sweatshirt and cap for my job at UPS. It’s the logistics industry’s equivalent of wearing a Chicago Bears sweatshirt to a Green Bay Packers Super Bowl celebration parade. — Denis Fritz

“As a child, the Little Red Riding Hood costume was made by my mother. As an adult, Wonder Woman. — Janice Gehrman

“McDonald’s milkshake with a big yellow straw.” — Elaine Hannigan

“John Belushi winning the Decathlon while smoking and eating little chocolate donuts.”—Jim O’Connor

“Hellraiser pinhead. I won $500 for best costume in 1993.” — Michael Belsky

“Sailor/ballerina. Sailor top / ballerina bottom. — Robin Randall

“Tin Man, when I patted my silver conduit on the face and almost peeled off my skin on the pullout.” —Marie V. Czarnik

“Humpty Dumpty made of chicken wire and newspaper.” – Dennis Jackson

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