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A former top financial officer with the Illinois State Police Merit Board has been indicted by a grand jury in Springfield for allegedly padding her salary significantly by filing for overtime she didn’t work.
Jenny Thornley, 41, a political activist whose campaign work has included Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s 2018 run for governor, is accused in an indictment issued Wednesday of stealing between $10,000 and $100,000 by allegedly forging documents purportedly signed by Jack Garcia, the merit board’s executive director.
As Garcia started investigating the overtime claims in early 2020, Thornley reached out to multiple ranking officials in the Pritzker administration and first lady M.K. Pritzker, according to separate filings in federal civil court.
Thornley was terminated from her post as the board’s chief fiscal officer and director of personnel in July 2020. In a federal lawsuit filed last April that names both the board and Garcia as defendants, Thornley claims she was fired by the merit board in retaliation after she filed complaints alleging sexual harassment and abuse by Garcia. He denied those charges.
An outside review for the merit board led by former federal prosecutor Christina Egan found evidence sufficient to support a finding that Thornley forged documents to make “payments for herself for overtime she did not work.”
The review also found evidence “insufficient to support a finding that Garcia sexually assaulted Thornley.”
Thornley did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Pritzker spokeswoman Emily Bittner said in a statement issued Thursday that the administration “takes allegations of sexual and professional misconduct seriously.”
“The Police Merit Board is an independent body, but the board members moved forward with the administration’s advice to hire an outside law firm to review the facts in the matter and place individuals on administrative leave as needed to allow the investigation to go forward,” Bittner said.
Initially, state officials put both Garcia and Thornley on administrative leave given the seriousness of the allegations they made about each other. Garcia, a former ranking official with the State Police, was reinstated last year following completion of the outside review.
According to Thornley’s federal lawsuit, she joined the board in May 2013. After being put on administrative leave in February 2020, she filed complaints alleging a hostile work environment, sexual harassment and retaliation with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, her lawsuit states.
In his response to the allegations in Thornley’s lawsuit, Garcia alleged she told an attorney they both knew that Garcia “does not know who he is messing with” and that she needed him to “back off.”
The merit board’s outside review led by Egan found that, over Super Bowl 2020 weekend, Thornley reached out to Pritzker chief of staff Anne Caprara, Deputy Gov. Christian Mitchell and Nikki Budzinski, a top adviser for Pritzker’s campaign and the governor’s office who is now running for Congress.
Thornley also spoke to Ann Spillane, Pritzker’s top lawyer, during the same weekend and sent a text to M.K. Pritzker, the outside review said.
Thornley’s text to M.K Pritzker, according to the review, said she had complained about sexual harassment: “I have a horrible incident that has taken place… I need JB to know what’s going on and hope they are keeping him aware.”
Bittner said M.K. Pritzker informed Thornley that “members of the administration needed to handle the issue in line with established procedures.”
“In her conversations with Ms. Thornley, General Counsel Spillane told Ms. Thornley that she was handling the issue and would discuss it with senior staff as needed and, as a result, there was no need to reach out additionally to the first lady,” Bittner said.
According to its website, the merit board’s mission is “to remove political influence and provide a fair and equitable merit process for the selection of Illinois State Trooper candidates and the promotion and discipline of Illinois State Police officers.”
In addition to a single count of theft against Thornley, Sangamon County grand jurors returned two counts of official misconduct and four counts of forgery in the Sangamon County case handled by the Illinois Appellate prosecutor’s office. Her first court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 28.