By John O’Connor
AP Political Writer
SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Bruce Rauner’s state-paid scheduler set up a May 2015 meeting at the Executive Mansion with a former business partner who claims in a lawsuit they discussed a personal business deal, calling into question Wednesday the Republican’s claims that he ended his day-to-day business dealings when he became governor three years ago.
Rauner’s official calendar, obtained by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act, shows a 5 p.m. appointment on May 11, 2015, at the governor’s mansion in Springfield.
That’s one of the days that Harreld “Kip” Kirkpatrick’s lawsuit claims he discussed with Rauner a settlement over a business investment made before Rauner took office. The calendar shows no indication of a meeting on the second date, Sept. 15, 2015.
Rauner disagrees over how a $67.5 million settlement in the 2011 investment with Kirkpatrick in a Michigan mortgage company should be divided, according to the lawsuit filed last fall in Cook County Circuit Court and largely sealed until this week.
Formerly a private equity investor facing a tough re-election campaign this fall, Rauner said when he was elected in 2014 that he would end day-to-day involvement in managing his investments.
Rauner spokeswoman Rachel Bold said Rauner disputes “Mr. Kirkpatrick’s allegations, including his characterizations of any conversations,” adding the investment took place before Rauner took office and “the governor is not involved in day-to-day investment decisions.”
The calendar for May 11, 2015, blocks out 5 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. for “Meeting w/Kip Kirkpatrick,” followed by a redacted section and “(Executive Mansion/Springfield, IL).”
From 1:20 to 1:30 p.m. that day, Rauner’s scheduler set up “Call w/Marty Nesbitt.” Nesbitt, one of former President Barack Obama’s closest friends, isn’t part of the Rauner-Kirkpatrick deal or lawsuit, but the Chicago Tribune reported that Nesbitt is now co-CEO of the private equity firm Vistria Group with Kirkpatrick.
An assistant told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Nesbitt was out of town. Nesbitt did not return a message that the AP left for him with the assistant.
The mansion is the private residence of the governor and first lady.
Susan Garrett, chairwoman of the nonpartisan Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, characterized Rauner’s discussions as falling into a “gray area.”
“He should know better than to conduct any type of business where there’s a question mark,” said Garrett, a former Democratic state senator. “Meetings are being set up by his assistant who is paid by the state and it was on state time. It seems he should have divorced himself from these proceedings or done them someplace else.”
Kirkpatrick also claims he met with Rauner on Sept. 15, 2015, in Chicago, but Rauner’s calendar shows no indication of a meeting. However, the calendar lists no appointments from 4:30 to 8:45 p.m. The governor and first lady Diana Rauner attended a reception starting at 8:45 p.m.
Lawyers for Kirkpatrick did not respond to a request for comment.