Assistant in Illinois emergency agency quits amid questions over pay that peaked at $48K a month

Chicago
By Chicago 6 Min Read

Illinois taxpayers have been paying $28,000 to $48,000 a month for the executive assistant to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency’s director.

Between February and August, the assistant accounted for $240,761.30 in billings — double the salary of her boss, Alicia Tate-Nadeau, during that period.

Tate-Nadeau — appointed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in 2019 to lead the agency overseeing pandemics, natural disasters and an influx of migrants — wouldn’t agree to an interview.

In response to questions about the costs, IEMA spokesman Kevin Sur said the contractor, Amy Gentry, resigned effective Thursday and that a state employee hired as the director’s assistant but “temporarily assigned” elsewhere would return to her former $84,000-a-year post Friday.

Gentry has recently been paid $156 an hour through a set of massive contracts earmarked for Illinois’ COVID-19 response. Her total billings to IEMA in other contracting roles through August top $1.03 million.

Timesheets show Gentry billed her time — as many as 350 hours a month — as “director support, Springfield/Remote,” or “Executive Assistant to the Director (Springfield/Remote), though invoices to the state define her pay rate and position as “Planner-IDPH” to “assist Illinois Department of Public Health on planning efforts.”

Gentry did not return calls and emails seeking comment.

“It is because of Amy’s extensive knowledge on multiple Gubernatorial Disaster Proclamations that we were able to address multiple issues/declared disasters and serve our agency and the people of Illinois,” Sur said. “Amy’s hours logged with our agency are reflective of her work, which have spanned multiple disasters.”

The state official who approved paying Gentry and the other contractors billing IEMA by the hour is one of four staffers ousted earlier this year for reasons state leaders have repeatedly refused to explain, instead insisting that everyone resigned “for personal reasons.”

All four — forced to step down for “misconduct,” “conduct unbecoming” and “poor performance” — are barred from ever working for the agency again, their personnel files show.

Public records show they’ve worked closely with Tate-Nadeau at IEMA and previously, too. 

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  • Top officials out at Illinois state emergency agency involved in COVID, disaster response

Former deputy director Scott Swinford and his operations chief Marc Sullivan were longtime colleagues of Tate-Nadeau in the Illinois National Guard. She made history as its first woman promoted to brigadier general; they were senior officers. Shortly after Pritzker announced Tate-Nadeau’s appointment, she tapped Swinford as her deputy director. Resigning in July, Sullivan wrote to her that he hoped “our professional relationship and friendship could remain intact.”

Former legislative liaison Jennifer March had followed Tate-Nadeau to IEMA from Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications, where they had worked together since 2016. That dynamic — of Tate-Nadeau as top executive and March as her assistant — continued at IEMA.

Elizabeth Findley, ousted in August, had filled in as Tate-Nadeau’s private secretary in much of 2020 and 2021, an exempt appointment that required the governor’s approval. Records show when she resigned, she was an assistant to the director at $78,000 a year.

“Elizabeth Findley’s last day was August 22, 2023,” reads an auto-reply from her state email. “Please direct all inquiries to Amy Gentry [email protected].”

Sullivan and March declined to answer questions. Swinford and Findley didn’t respond to messages.

Gentry has been employed by All Hands Consulting, a subcontractor to Innovative Emergency Management that was hired by IEMA in 2020 as one of the firms aiding Illinois’ pandemic response, including testing sites and vaccination clinics.

Because the governor proclaimed the pandemic a disaster, IEMA did not have to go through a typical bidding process, but said IEM was chosen because of the two best qualified companies, its prices were “significantly lower.”

The bulk of the contracts involving Gentry specify they’re for “mass vaccination” with a maximum value of $130 million, $96.4 million of it billed as of August.

IEM also has secured contracts from the Illinois Department of Public Health and Illinois Department of Human Services, and to aid IEMA’s response to migrants. State records show $193 million in payments to IEM since 2020.

Gentry’s highest billing month was March 2022 — $60,055.42 for 350 hours at $171.22 an hour as an “Ops Chief Assistant,” “developing state to local vaccine operation plan.”

She logged 350 hours again in January 2023 as a “Planner-IDPH” for $156 an hour, or a little less than $55,000. IEMA won’t release those timesheets.

Since February, records show Gentry has scheduled Tate-Nadeau’s meetings and accompanied her to disaster sites, such as Sherman, Illinois, which was hit by an EF-2 level tornado in March. That month, she logged 310 hours or $48,732.98.

IEM spokeswoman Carla Juarez Farley and All Hands spokesman Zane Steves referred all questions to IEMA.

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