SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Critics are saying an Illinois agency that assists lawmakers with issues impacting the state’s deaf and hard of hearing community is wasting hundreds of thousands of state dollars through weak leadership and oversight.

The State Journal-Register (http://bit.ly/2dqvSLC ) reported that critics of the Springfield-based Illinois Deaf and Hard of Hearing Commission launched an online petition this summer that calls for the group to listen to the community’s needs and make systematic changes.

The law that created the commission calls it to “review, evaluate and participate in the development of proposed and amended statutes, rules, regulations and policies” affecting the deaf. However according to critics the commission is failing on many counts.

Illinois Association of the Deaf president Corey Axelrod said commission director John Miller and assistant director Janet Lambert are incompetent and shouldn’t be leading the agency.

“They are underqualified and overpaid,” Axelrod said.

Commissioners for the agency listened to the Association of the Deaf’s concerns at an August meeting. They will again hold another meeting on Wednesday to address the issues that were raised.

Calls to the agency by the newspaper were not returned.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Bruce Rauner defended the agency, saying the group “works diligently on behalf of the hard of hearing and deaf community to improve their independence, increase access to interpreters, and educate the public. We appreciate the hard work the Illinois Association of the Deaf. We are aware of their concerns and take them seriously.”

In August 2015, then-commission chairman Anil Phadke suspended Miller and Lambert at the panel’s meeting pending an investigation into allegations by the governor’s office. According to agency legal counsel Tonia Bogener, the suspension was overturned in September 2015 because the suspension was “not legal” and initiated without a vote by the full board. Phadke later resigned out of frustration.

Bogener wrote in an email to the newspaper that the 11-member commission “regularly evaluates” Miller and Lambert and thinks both are “doing adequate work.”

Information from: The State Journal-Register, http://www.sj-r.com