Appointments pulled for two members of Prisoner Review Board

By Beth Hundsdorfer Capitol News Illinois

Republican Sens. Terri Bryant, Jason Plummer and Steve McClure, members of the Senate Executive Appointments Committee, are pictured in a file photo. Plummer questioned the committee’s decision not to hear Prisoner Review Board appointments. (Capitol News Illinois photo by Peter Hancock)

SPRINGFIELD – Gov. J.B. Pritzker yanked the appointment of two appointees to the Illinois Prisoner Review Board earlier this month the same morning a Senate committee was scheduled to consider them.

It was the second time Pritzker pulled the appointments of Aurthur Mae Perkins, 83, of Peoria and Joseph Ruggiero, 62, of Wheaton for the Illinois Prisoner Review Board. The two, both appointees originally made by Republican former Gov. Bruce Rauner, have served on the Prisoner Review Board without Senate confirmation for nearly three years each.

“Between the two of them, I think they have served a combined six years on the Prisoner Review Board, raking in approximately a half-million dollars in taxpayer funded salary,” said Sen. Jason Plummer, R-Edwardsville.

Plummer told the committee he heard appointments for Perkins and Ruggiero were pulled on March 8 — just before the committee hearing began.

“Do you know why they are withdrawn?” he asked Committee Chairperson Laura Murphy, D-Des Plaines.

“Senator, we are in compliance with the Senate Rules,” she replied.

The PRB is a 15-person body appointed by the governor. It has the authority to grant, deny or determine conditions of parole, and it must notify victims and families when an inmate is going to be released from custody. The board also imposes release conditions and makes recommendations on pardon and clemency petitions to the governor.

Perkins is a former teacher, principal and adjunct faculty member at Bradley University. She currently serves on the Peoria Housing Authority Board and the Peoria Citizen’s Committee for Economic Opportunity as a board member. Perkins was originally appointed to the Prisoner Review Board by Rauner in March 2015.

Ruggiero was appointed by Rauner in September 2018 to fill the vacancy left by Tom Johnson, who left the position before his term was up. Ruggiero was appointed to finish out Johnson’s term, then reappointed by Pritzker on March 21, 2019, for a new term once it ended.

Ruggiero served as a prosecutor for 30 years in the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office, handling high-profile murder cases. He prosecuted Michael Whitney for the stabbing death of student Darlene Stack. He also prosecuted Marilyn Lemak, who was convicted of murdering her three children.

Lemak and Whitney both received life sentences for their respective crimes, and they remain in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Senate rules allow the governor to withdraw an appointment and reappoint an individual if the Senate fails to vote on a nominee within 60 session days of the governor’s filing of the appointment.

This practice has been used by previous governors.

Plummer filed a bill, Senate Bill 3670, that would require the Senate to confirm or deny PRB members within 30 session days or 90 calendar days after appointment, whichever comes first. The bill would also prohibit reappointing a person to the PRB for two years after their appointment is withdrawn.

That bill was introduced in January but remains in the Senate Assignments Committee and has no cosponsors.

Perkins and Ruggiero are two of nine members of the Prisoner Review Board that have not been confirmed by the Senate. Other Prisoner Review Board members awaiting confirmation are Oreal James, Eleanor Wilson, Max Cerda, Jeffery Mears, Kenneth Tupy, Jared Bohland and Lee Ann Miller.