A member of the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board and his son have collected more than $1 million in commissions by selling insurance to hospitals, according to a published report.
Bernard Weiner is a longtime member of the planning board, which reviews proposals to build or expand hospitals in the state. He has repeatedly voted on requests from hospitals that paid him to be an insurance broker, the Chicago Sun-Times reported in today's editions.
Weiner, 72, said he sees no conflict of interest because he votes for hospital projects solely on merit.
"If it's a successful project, you vote for it," Weiner said. "If it's not, you don't."
Weiner -- a close friend of former Gov. George Ryan -- has been on the embattled board since 1980. He was off the board briefly in 2003 until Gov. Rod Blagojevich reappointed him April 19. His term expires in 2006.
Weiner's firm, Weiner Insurance, has sold insurance to at least seven hospitals in the Chicago area, according to federal records. From 1998 to 2002, Weiner and his son made more than $1 million in commissions.
The hospitals include Edward Hospital in Naperville, MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn, Northern Illinois Medical Center in McHenry, Rock Creek Center psychiatric hospital in Lemont, Rush-Copley Medical Center in Aurora, Rush North Shore Medical Center in Skokie and Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
Weiner said that years ago he had a staff member check with the Illinois attorney general to see if the business would be a conflict of interest. He said he learned "that there's no conflict."
The planning board has been caught up recently in a controversy over how the state awards hospital construction contracts.
Federal officials are investigating allegations in a sealed whistleblower lawsuit by Edward Hospital, according to published reports. Hospital officials have alleged they were pressured by a Deerfield contractor and a bond firm to use those companies if they wanted the planning board to approve a new $169 million hospital in the Chicago suburb of Plainfield.
Blagojevich and House Speaker Michael Madigan have said the planning board should be overhauled. Madigan introduced legislation last month to dissolve the board and let the governor appoint nine new members.