Only days before the ComEd Four trial is set to begin, Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office announced Friday that Illinois Commerce Commission Chair Carrie Zalewski, whose father-in-law is tied to the federal court case, will resign in June from her position overseeing the state’s utilities.
Zalewski’s father-in-law, former 23rd Ward Ald. Mike Zalewski, is expected to figure prominently in the trial, which is set to begin next week, over allegations that payments from Commonwealth Edison were funneled his way. He has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
Carrie Zalewski has abstained on major ComEd issues before the ICC since federal agents raided her father-in-law’s house four years ago. The raid was one of the earliest major moves in the federal investigation centered on then-House Speaker Michael Madigan.
Cayli Baker, an ICC spokesperson, said Carrie Zalewski’s resignation from the $144,000-a-year post before her five-year term is up has nothing to do with the upcoming trial. Baker said Zalewski has not been interviewed by federal authorities and that she has never been a subject in the far-reaching investigation.
“Several factors went into the chairman’s decision to wind down just before the end of her term,” Baker said. “After 17 years in public service, she is ready for a new challenge and made this decision in partnership with her family.”
Zalewski is married to former state Rep. Mike Zalewski, a Riverside Democrat who was defeated in a reelection bid last year.
Pritzker said he will nominate former ICC Chairman Doug Scott to lead the agency. The vice president of a nonprofit clean energy organization, Scott is a former state representative from Rockford who also has run the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.
Other Pritzker nominations to the ICC are Stacey Paradis, executive director of the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, and Conrad Reddick, an attorney who once represented the Illinois Industrial Energy Consumers and worked as a lawyer for the city of Chicago on utility matters.
“With the governor’s office making two other commissioner appointments, the chairman (Carrie Zalewski) also wanted to give the agency the opportunity to appoint a new leader alongside the new additions,” Baker said.
Former Ald. Zalewski’s house was raided in May 2019 along with those of other figures in the ComEd scandal, including former utility lobbyist Mike McClain, a longtime Madigan confidant.
McClain goes on trial Tuesday, along with former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, and lobbyists John Hooker and Jay Doherty, on sweeping bribery-related charges tied to the utility’s efforts to get Madigan’s support for its agenda in Springfield.
Madigan and McClain have been charged in a separate case arising from the scandal. They have denied wrongdoing.
The federal case involves an array of alleged bribery and conspiracy schemes carried out from 2011 to 2019, including a plot to steer ComEd payments for little or no-work jobs to members of Madigan’s vast political operation.
For example, ComEd allegedly agreed in May 2018 to pay $5,000 a month to the retiring Ald. Zalewski as part of payments to a “roster” of Madigan allies, according to prosecutors.
Madigan put Carrie Zalewski’s name on a large list of people he recommended for jobs in the Pritzker administration, but the governor’s office has played down any influence Madigan’s list had on her appointment, according to WBEZ-FM.
Baker said Zalewski’s qualifications for the ICC post “speak for themselves. To suggest otherwise ignores the wealth of experience and training that qualifies her to lead the commission.”
Zalewski was named to the ICC post in April 2019. She is trained as an engineer and a lawyer who previously spent nine years on the Illinois Pollution Control Board, worked at the Illinois Department of Transportation and is viewed as a “fair and independent regulator.” Baker said.