Fischer suspended as director of state law enforcement training agency

Brent Fischer

Brent Fischer

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Brent Fischer is on administrative leave with pay as executive director of the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board.

Jordan Abudayyeh, press secretary for Governor J.B. Pritzker, responded to an inquiry from Muddy River News by text Friday morning. She said Fischer was “on leave pending investigation.” She didn’t elaborate any further.

Fischer returned a call to Muddy River News Friday evening and acknowledged he was on “administrative leave with pay” as the ILETS Board looked into “an internal policy discrepancy.” Fischer said it is the board, and not the governor, who put him on administrative leave.

Fischer, a Quincy native and former Adams County Sheriff, was appointed to the position by the ILETS Board in December 2015 while Bruce Rauner, was governor. He was the second Adams County resident to hold a state agency director position under Rauner at the time. Republican Jeff Mays was director of the Illinois Department of Employment Security from 2015 to early 2019.

Fischer, a Democrat, served as Adams County Sheriff for 17 years before his appointment. He began his career with Adams County as a bailiff in 1991. He was hired as a deputy in 1994, then defeated long-time Republican incumbent Robert Nall in the race for sheriff in 1998. Fischer won re-election twice and served as sheriff until his appointment to the ILETSB post.  He also served 10 years as a board member of ILETSB and was its chairman from 2010 to 2012.

Fischer replaced another Quincy native, Kevin McClain, as head of ILETSB. McClain is a brother of Mike McClain, the former state representative, lobbyist and confidant to former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan. McClain is under federal indictment for his alleged involvement in the Commonwealth Edison bribery scheme and he has pleaded not guilty.

Fischer was not involved in any of the ComEd dealings. However, he and McClain also were mentioned in another investigation regarding an alleged rape cover-up after an email McClain wrote surfaced during the ComEd investigation. McClain asked for leniency for Forrest Ashby of Quincy, who was working at a Department of Human Services facility for inmates in Rushville and was facing potential disciplinary action.

McClain wrote that Ashby “… is a good compliance person, as I told you … He has kept his mouth shut on Jones’ ghost workers, the rape in Champaign and other items. He is loyal to the administration.”

The 2012 email was between McClain and Gary Hannig, then-Gov. Pat Quinn’s former legislative affairs liasion. John Keigher, Fischer’s chief legal counsel from the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board, said Ashby’s contract was suspended when reports of the email surfaced in 2020.

Fischer appeared before an Illinois House Committee in February 2020 about Ashby. Legislators grilled Fischer for nearly 30 minutes regarding Ashby’s contract and his hiring, according to Chicago’s WBEZ.

According to the WBEZ report, Fischer said he did not publicly post the contractual position but instead offered it directly to Ashby, since the two already had a rapport. Fischer testified he knew Ashby because he had volunteered on one of Fischer’s own campaigns. He said nobody from Pritzker’s campaign, the governor’s office, the speaker’s office or McClain recommended Ashby be hired on contract.

Fischer also told Muddy River News that Ashby’s contract was immediately suspended when the 2012 emails game to light and that he had hired Ashby based on his work with the Illinois Department of Corrections.

State records show that after Ashby left state employment in 2018, he ended up on the payroll of Pritzker’s campaign for governor as a $5,000-a-month political consultant. McClain recommended Ashby for the job, which was “faith-based outreach,” the Pritzker campaign said at the time.

The Pritzker campaign paid Ashby $47,500, according to The Illinois State Board of Elections website.

Fischer emphasized that his administrative leave has nothing to do with the Ashby situation. He said that has been resolved and no one was found of any wrongdoing in connection with that matter.

WBEZ provided information for this report.

PUBLISHER’S NOTE: An earlier version of this report said Fischer was suspended by Gov. Pritzker. Fischer clarified that it was the ILETAS Board that issued his administrative leave with pay. It should also be noted that Fischer is not a part of the aforementioned federal indictment involving Michael McClain and ComEd. JRG

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