By PETER HANCOCK
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD — State Sen. Tom Cullerton was replaced as chairman of the Senate Labor Committee, a move that comes four days after he was indicted on federal charges of embezzling money from a labor union.
According to a spokesman for the senate president’s office, the shakeup among committee chairs involves three Senate committees. Sen. Omar Aquino, D-Chicago, was named to replace Cullerton on the Labor Committee; Cullerton was named as the new chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee; and Sen. Cristina Castro, D-Elgin, former chair of Veterans Affairs, has been named fill Aquino’s former post as chair of the Government Accountability and Pensions Committee.
“After a discussion, it was a mutual decision that this was for the best,” John Patterson, a spokesman for Senate President John Cullerton, said in an email. Tom Cullerton, a Villa Park Democrat, is a distant cousin of the senate president, a Chicago Democrat.
On Friday, Aug. 2, Tom Cullerton, 49, was charged with 40 counts in an indictment alleging he “knowingly conspire(d)” to embezzle from the Teamsters Joint Council 25 and Teamsters Local Union 734. Cullerton is also facing one count alleging he lied on health forms.
The federal government, in court documents, claims the senator received $274,066 in salary and benefits between March 2013 and February 2016, a period of time during which prosecutors allege he did little or no work for the union.
According to the indictment, Cullerton also received holiday bonuses for three years, and collected about $60,000 from January 15, 2015, through the end of January 2016.
Cullerton has denied the allegations.
“Senator Tom Cullerton is honored to serve the Illinois Senate in any capacity requested of him,” a spokesperson for Cullerton said Tuesday in an emailed statement. “As an honorably discharged veteran of the United States Army, he is incredibly proud to work closely with our distinguished veterans. Sen. Cullerton also vows to not let up on his work in the Legislature with regards to the deadly outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease in our state.”