Monday, October 31, 2011

You got that water where?

When you make that pot of coffee at church or at the office, you are just going to have to use drinkable water.

Well, what does the McOrnery County Department of Health think folks are using now? Are they dipping sludge out of a holding pond in McCullom Lake?

Don't people use tap water to make coffee? Or filtered water? But you'd better not fill that coffee pot from the faucet in the restroom. Well, okay; I can sort of understand that, since people who are washing their hands might put their dirty or soapy hands against the faucet opening.

And those unwrapped cookies and muffins? They must be covered with adequate "sneeze protection."

Don't you just have to wonder how civilization existed for millinnia without these rules? It's not like people are dropping like flies in the streets. Has anyone ever gotten sick at a church potluck or an office birthday party?

I wonder if they will relax the rules with which McHDOH has hammered the County's bed-and-breakfasts. The B&B owners can prepare a fancy breakfast without oversight, but let them bake some chocolate-chip cookies in the afternoon for the arriving guests, and the Department's inspectors have been ready to shut them down.

Your tax dollars are at work, folks...

Internal investigation launched at MCSD

What do you suppose has prompted the McHenry County Sheriff's Department to launch an internal investigation into the arrest, escape and capture of James Henson in mid-October?

Let's see; could it be the constant bombardment of questions in the Northwest Herald about what happened and who was involved?

No, it couldn't be that.

Will the truth be revealed? Or will it be the routine cover-up, handling serious issues, even criminal acts, "administratively", so that the public cannot learn the ugly details?

McHenry County needs an independent police review board. Perhaps it could even be a County-wide review board, serving the County, the municipalities and the villages. Or, for a 400+-employee organization, maybe it should be just for the sheriff's department.

Some departments have Internal Affairs Divisions. Would that work here? Not likely, because the head of IAD reports to the administrator of the law-enforcement agency. Here, that would be to the Sheriff. Nope. That won't work here.

You won't hear this in McHenry County

After a Spartanburg, S.C. woman was nearly raped in a park there, Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright declared, "Carry a concealed weapon. That'll fix it."

Wright was frustrated after a long-time criminal was back in jail one more time.

Wright also said, "Liberals call me and tell me the chain-gang form of justice isn't working. Well, let me inform you, your form of justice isn't working either."

Wright's advice is to carry a concealed weapon. In other words, be ready to protect yourself. And be ready to protect someone else.

A news article on included, "(Wright) said several times, 'I want you to get a concealed weapons permit.' "

Wicker & Terry Ct., last Friday

What was happening on Wicker Street, near Terry Court, in Woodstock about mid-day last Friday, October 28?

Several readers have asked me if I know anything about anguished screams (described by one reader as the worst screams of despair and grief ever heard) that went on for some period of time. More than one called the Woodstock P.D.

When they read nothing in the paper over the week-end or this morning, they started asking me.

Since a FOIA request would take a week, I'm asking you, other readers;what do you know?

Heideman resigned October 3. Who arrested Henson?

When James Henson was arrested on October 19 while trespassing, was he "arrested" by a person who did not have powers of arrest?

Rumors persist that McHenry County Sheriff's Department employee Jon Heideman was on the scene fast and confronted Henson with his weapon drawn. Is this true?

The sheriff's department isn't saying. The Northwest Herald isn't asking. Or, if it is, it's not reporting any answer that it has gotten.

According to Sheriff's Department employment records, Heideman was appointed as a peace officer on June 7, 2010. He resigned as a deputy sheriff on October 3, 2011.

And then Heideman was appointed to the position of Court Security Officer on October 4, 2011. I wonder ... did he apply for such employment? Go through screening? Go on the eligibility list? How did he get hired so fast?

Generally speaking, doesn't a sworn peace officer lose his peace-officer status, when he resigns from a law-enforcement agency? And did his right to carry a gun stop? Did he identify himself as "Police" or "Deputy Sheriff", when he challenged Henson if, in fact, he did challenge Henson? And what about rumors that Henson was threatened with having his head blown off?

In my FOIA request I inquired about any continuing right to carry or display a weapon by a person employed as a Court Security Officer, but the FOIA response did not answer that portion of my request.

I think Heideman's powers of arrest ended on October 3, two weeks before Henson was arrested. Of course, the sheriff's department is not even saying who was at the scene (or how Henson escaped from the squad car, where he should have been handcuffed and seatbelted in) of Deputy ___?___ (the sheriff's department is not saying who the driver was)).

EEO Job - anyone?

On the McHenry County website is a job posting for "Equal Employment Opportunity Officer - Sheriff's Department." Anyone interested?

Is Kathleen Seith retiring? Quitting? or is MCSD hiring a second EEO officer?

Read the first line in the Summary of Job, just below. Now imagine yourself in this position. Imagine that the sheriff is about to violate equal opportunity laws, so you march in and say, "Keith, you can't do that." You had better keep your resume up-to-date!

Then read down to Desired Education and/or Experience: Juris Doctorate preferred.

And compensation is "D.O.Q." (depending on qualifications). So the sheriff wants to hire a lawyer to work with his outside law firm? What lawyer would take that job, if he had good reason to believe that the sheriff had violated termination policies and laws regarding past employees?

And the OSHA (it's all caps, folks) warning? Should the new EEO officer wear PPEs all day at work, to protect herself from the environment?

From the County's website, Employment tab:

Summary of Job:
This position is under the general supervision of the Sheriff.  This position will manage the recruitment and job placement activities of the McHenry County Sheriff's office.  Monitor the Sheriff's Office progress and performance relative to the Federal and State non-discrimination laws providing instruction and guidance relative to policies and protocols.  Administer and maintain contracts entered into by the Sheriff's Office.  Monitor litigation concerning the Sheriff's Office and shall act as liaison for the Sheriff's Office with outside attorneys.
Essential Duties and Responsibilities:
  • Assist in developing, implementing, evaluating and monitoring the Sheriff's Office procedures on recruitments, testing, selection and job placement within the office.
  • Arrange for initial orientation and training of newly hired employees.
  • Prepare reports concerning recruitment, interviews, hires, transfers, promotions and terminations. 
  • Analyze reports and other data using knowledge of job requirement selections, processes and legislative concerns regarding equal employment practices.
  • Make recommendation to management for the improvement of the Sheriff's employment discrimination complaints by employees in the Sheriff's Office.  Oversee and report to the Sheriff issues concerning the equal employment opportunity training program.
  • Responsibilities for other duties as may be specifically assigned to the EEO by the Sheriff, including but not limited to performing any mandated or permitted function of action allowed to be performed by the EEO or by the Sheriff.
Desired Education and/or Experience:
  • Bachelor's Degree (BA) from a four year college or university and/or five years related experience and current knowledge of the Equal Employment Opportunity issues, or equivalent combination of education and experience.
  • Juris Doctorate preferred.
  • A minimum of five years working experience with law enforcement and correctional policies.  Must have a keen understanding of Patrol and  Corrections duties, policies and regulations.
  • Familiarity with County Government including but not limited to duties of the Sheriff, Corrections and Patrol Divisions as well as civilian personnel.
 Work Environment:
While performing this job, the employee will spend the majority of his or her time in an office within the McHenry County Government Center.  The employee will occasionally be required to make visits to sites inside or outside of the County of McHenry.  Will also occasionally be exposed to hot, cold, wet and/or humid weather conditions.
Osha Notice:
This position has been determined to be a REMOTE exposure risk to "biohazards" associated with blood-borne pathogens HIV (AIDS), HBV (Hepatitis B) virus, and air-borne transmissions of TB (tuberculosis).  Members are advised that exposures to these "biohazards" may result in severe illness or death.  Members are required by Department policy to use protective equipment and clothing.  Inoculation may be required to prevent or treat exposures to "biohazards".

Why the MCSD squad car at Jewish Congregation?

A couple of weeks ago a reader queried me why a marked McHenry County Sheriff's Department squad car would be parked for extended periods of time (days? weeks? months?) in front of the McHenry County Jewish Congregation on Ridgefield Road, in unincorporated McHenry County. I thought that was a pretty good question. (Remember the MCSD squad car parked (stored?) in Sheriff's Dept. Merit Commission member Brian Goode's driveway?)

I filed a FOIA request and went by for a photo. The car was gone. Imagine that! (Is my computer bugged?) I replied to the reader that the car was gone, and he responded that he, too, had noticed that it was moved - for the first time in a long time.

This morning another reader told me about seeing that squad car parked there for long periods of time. The caller was leery of emailing me, having read of the possibility that MCSD might show up at my door with a search warrant.

And the response to my FOIA request? "The McHenry County Sheriff’s Office does not have any documentation related to this request."

What that means to me is that the squad car was parked there "off the books." There must have been a verbal order or direction or permission to park and leave the squad car there, and nothing was put in writing. FOIA is only good for what's in writing. Nothing in writing? Then there is no "paper trail."

Did anyone else see it? How long was it parked there? Anybody on the "inside" know about it?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

D.S.T. and Sprint

If you are a Sprint cell phone user who relies on his cell phone for his timepiece, you are going to be late for church today.

Sprint evidently thinks that Daylight Savings Time (D.S.T.) ends today, because my cell phone time shows now as one hour earlier than all the rest of the clocks in my home.

I tried calling Customer Service (like, it would take them three days to go up the food chain and notify the right person), but they are closed today. Or, at least, closed at this time.

So, rely on those old-fashioned clocks. If you have an atomic clock, it'll be right. So will your wrist watch, if you still have one of those.

When does D.S.T. end? Next Sunday, November 6.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Round and round she goes ...

... where the wheel will stop, nobody knows. Here we go again.

Nearly five years years ago I was told that some off-duty deputies had left the Red Mill (a sometimes cop bar in in Woodstock on Lake Avenue near Route 47 (and under its former management)) in a highly intoxicated manner and that one deputy had been battered (you've heard of assault and battery) by another deputy. I went to Woodstock Police Chief Lowen and asked about it.

Chief Lowen told me he didn't know anything about it and would check into it. Soon thereafter, he told me that he had sent a detective to the McHenry County Sheriff's Department, and he had returned empty-handed. I don't think those were his exact words, but I understood that the deputy had not been able to learn anything about the birthday party at the Red Mill, the drunks, the drunken driving or the battery.

If you go to Cal Skinner's McHenry County Blog ( and scroll down to the article titled Sheriff Seeks Sanctions for Privacy Violations, While Violating Privacy Order or “Do As I Say, Not As I Do” on October 28th, you'll find a reproduction of a MCSD letter dated February 8, 2007, from the Equal Employment Opportunity officer, Kathleen Seith.

The five-page letter from EEO Officer Seith is nasty. This letter is in the public record in Zane's case in Federal District Court in Rockford. Go to McHenry County Blog and read it. The excuses, reasoning and B.S. from senior command personnel of the Sheriff's Department deserve broad publicity. These people are still in charge today.

I hope that Chief Lowen reads that five-page letter. His detective should have come back to Woodstock P.D. with information in 2007.

Will Sheriff miss Supreme Court appeal filing deadline?

Sheriff Nygren has a critical deadline facing him, and that's in the (wrongful) termination matter of Deputy Zane Seipler matter. He's waiting until the last minute to file his appeal of the ruling of the Illinois Appellate Court - 2nd District, which ruled against him about a month ago. How long did the sheriff have to appeal? Thirty days? Thirty-five?

And, if you remember a little farther back, Judge Thomas Meyer ruled against Nygren.

And, still farther back. the arbitrator ruled against Nygren.

But Nygren has plenty of money to keep up the fight against taking Seipler back. Of course, it's not his money on the line here. It's your money.

And I call him "Deputy Zane Seipler", because Nygren has not been successful in firing Seipler. The Northwest Herald has called him "former deputy", but he is still on board; he is still on the payroll, except he is not getting paid. Right now, he is entitled to all his back pay. How much will that be?

Someone told me recently that the Appellate Court didn't even hold a hearing in this case. I don't know what its decision-making process was; I kept waiting for a hearing date when arguments would be made in person. I was more than curious about how Nygren's attorney was going to stand in front of the three appellate judges and keep from being chewed up and spit out. Had I been Nygren's attorney, I would have advised him not to appeal Judge Meyer's decision. Of course, that would have ended the flow of County money to me for legal fees, but that would have been the right call.

If Nygren does appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court, I wonder if there is a way for Zane to get a hearing in 30 days and get the matter over with. What will Nygren do then, if Zane wins there or if the Supreme Court refuses to hear the case?

If the Illinois Supreme Court does refuse the case, then the Northwest Herald ought to bring out a Special Edition and blast the sheriff's waste of time and taxpayer money. It won't, of course. I predict Nygren will resign, when Zane wins at the Supreme Court level, and then Zinke will take Seipler back. Hopefully, Zane's lawyers can get a judge to order the Sheriff's Department to pay Zane in full no later than 30 days after that decision.

Heroin dealer off the streets for 12 years

A McHenry County Circuit Court judge sent a heroin dealer off to a State penitentiary for 12 years yesterday in a plea deal involving a felony charge of drug-induced homicide. Erik Strickland had apparently been a regular source of heroin to the man, who died early in 2010.

The "deal" resulted in a conviction for delivery of a controlled substance (heroin) and not on the charge of drug-induced homicide. That's what happens in "deals". A trial is avoided. The risk for the prosecutor of losing (a conviction) is avoided. The offender goes to prison. He knows the deal he is getting, rather than risking a longer sentence, if he loses the fight in court.

Is 12 years enough? The family of the man who died may not think so. The police may not think so. Strickland has a long record. He knows the "system" well. I met Strickland and his wife about three years ago. At the time I was unaware of his extensive criminal history.

I met him after he was hassled one night by a deputy, reportedly at gunpoint, according to a witness who observed the traffic stop from across the street. I was able to track him down through a contact at a Crystal Lake business. That was before he delivered the heroin that caused the death.

Do persons with criminal history get hassled in McHenry County? You bet? I'm talking about "illegally" hassled. There is no doubt about it. And, when that happens, the entire criminal justice systems starts to break down.

Sure, the cops have a hard time. But we must be able to rely on them not to break the law themselves, when they are enforcing it. I strongly favor good, strong, LEGAL police work. And I not only favor it, I demand it.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Residential Burglary in Woodstock?

Was there a burglary on Dean Street in Woodstock? Like, between Fremont and South Street? On October 21 or October 24? From all the reports (ha-ha) in the newspaper, you wouldn't know about it.

One resident in the neighborhood called the Woodstock Police about it. She said, "They told me if I had an exact address it would be helpful." Now that's really helpful; right?

So, how many burglaries were there on Dean Street on or about October 21-24?

Two residents on Dean Street told me that they thought stolen items had been found at the pawn shop near the Square. We're not dealing with the smartest burglars, here...

OK, folks. If you're not home, lock the doors. If you are home, lock the doors. And, if you come home and find a door open that you knew you had locked, don't go in. Immediately call the police. And step out to the curb, just in case the burglars are still inside.

Should burglaries be promptly disclosed to the public through the media? Or maybe via a small-area alert on Woodstock's own NIXLE-type system? I've never received one alert from the City of Woodstock since they started the system. You'd think they'd do a test, perhaps once a year.

Special Prosecutor petititon about to die?

On September 27th the Northwest Herald carried an article about the previous week's ruling  by the Illinois Appellate Court that there was nothing wrong with the decisions by McHenry County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Meyer or the arbitrator who decided that Zane Seipler's punishment should have been three days' off, not termination.

The article did not provide the date of the Appellate Court ruling, nor did he indicate within how many days Sheriff Nygren must file any appeal with the Illinois Supreme Court. Nygren was making noises about wasting more taxpayer money in his stalling. Soon he'll run out of time, because he doesn't have "forever" to file an appeal. The clock could have been 30 days or 35 days.

In another case involving Seipler, the sheriff's legal team is trying to run out the clock on statute of limitations. The sheriff has apparently hired Woodstock attorney Mark Gummerson to represent him individually, and hopefully he won't find an unused checkbook in a bottom drawer in his office to pay Gummerson with other than personal funds.

Could there be a three-year statute of limitations on the allegations raised in Seipler's petitions? If legal tomfoolery can continue to delay a start of an investigation, could the statute run out?

Whether the State's Attorney could or couldn't investigate Nygren has been a murky issue. To me it looks like he doesn't want to. Is it because he represents the sheriff?  But the sheriff spends thousands of dollars (over a million?) on outside legal services.

Nygren tried to get the taxpayers on the hook for legal fees "in his official capacity", but Judge Meyer called a fast halt to that. Last week Mark Gummerson was in court, apparently running up the sheriff's tab with his office.

Will the petition die an unquiet death, if the Statute of Limitations expires? Or will some clever lawyering come into play to keep the petition for a special prosecutor alive?

WHooping cough announcement - NIXLE

The McHenry County Sheriff's Department (MCSD) won't tell residents about an escaped prisoner, but it sent out a long NIXLE message about "WHooping Cough" late this afternoon.

Yes, folks; that's WHooping (sic) Cough; at least, according to MCSD it is. For sixty years, I spelled it "whooping cough", and I am beginning to wonder whether I was spelling it incorrectly all those years.

MCSD could have saved a lot of cyberspace by just reminding readers to catch last Wednesday's article on whooping cough.

Usually, important messages are the other way around. The Sheriff's Department issues a NIXLE message to alert residents of some urgent matter, and the newspaper follows up on it. Most moms know about whooping cough. Was it really necessary to send it out via NIXLE?

Who the heck is in charge of NIXLE at MCSD, anyway?

Is Henson case another cover-up?

When will the Northwest Herald report the whole story of James Henson's arrest, escape and capture? Or will it?

The Northwest Herald has strong connections to the McHenry County Sheriff's Department and to the Crystal Lake Police Department. It has the inside track. It gets stories a long time before there is ever a press release. Sometimes there never is a press release.

Take the recent case of James Henson.

A glaring error on the part of both agencies was the failure to utilize the NIXLE alert system to warn residents in Crystal Lake that Henson had escaped from a MCSD squad car while being transported to the McHenry County Jail. MCSD did inform Crystal Lake Police, didn't it?

But before that, there are serious questions about just how it happened that Henson escaped.

And before that, there are serious questions about the circumstances of Henson's initial arrest.

Was he "arrested" by an off-duty court security officer (who had no arrest powers)? A court security officer cannot "arrest"; he does not have police powers. And he certainly can't arrest at gunpoint. Was a weapon drawn and pointed at Henson? Was Henson threatened? What words were used to "persuade" Henson to cease and desist from whatever he was doing?

Would I run if someone were pointing a gun at me and threatening to blow my (expletive deleted) head off?

Why did so much time pass before Henson was transported toward the jail?

What were the exact circumstances of his escape from the squad car? How did he get out of the handcuff(s)?

Did anyone interfere with procedures that dictated use of NIXLE? Was someone more than unhappy that the Reverse 9-1-1 system was used? -  to let the cat out of the bag, so to speak.

Instead of a squeaky-clean sheriff's department, we seem to have one that operates on cover-up. This must stop.

The old phrase "We need a new sheriff in town" isn't just words. It is going to require an outsider to come in and clean up the McHenry County Sheriff's Department. A "good old boy" (or young one) will not get the job done. It's going to require someone with no ties inside the department - someone with no friends, loyalties or debts. That "someone" will take one look and say, "No more!"

I can think of someone. A retired Illinois State trooper with the highest integrity.

It's too bad that we don't have Ken Rossignol in McHenry County!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

MCSD - NIXLE alive (and well....)

The McHenry County Sheriff's Department (MCSD) sent out a NIXLE message this afternoon. What did it cost the Department (and the taxpayers) for the time to put it together?

It's "nice" to get a NIXLE message that Halloween is October 31. Duhhhh.......   How did we get along for years without NIXLE? Didn't Halloween occur before NIXLE? Didn't parents know to warn their kids and to check the candy?

Of course, MCSD didn't use it when James Henson kicked his way out of a squad car and roamed (almost) free for 12 hours.

But MCSD feels the need to "alert" the public about Halloween...  Our tax dollars at work, folks...

Tim Smith bond reduction sought

McHenry County Jail inmate Timothy S. Smith will be in court on Tuesday, November 1st, at 1:30PM, for a bond-reduction hearing. Smith is being held in the Jail on a first-degree murder (and other) charge in the death of Kurt Milliman in late May.

The bond reduction motion will be heard in Courtroom 302, not in the Rights Court in the jail. Smith is being held on $900,000 bond.

The Case Number is 11CF000520, in case you are following this in court records. The next scheduled court date after Tuesday is November 17, 9:00AM. Arrive in time to learn whether that court date will be in the Rights Jail or Courtroom 302.

Henson escape - no NIXLE. Why not?

When is the public going to learn the real reason that NIXLE was not used to alert the public to the escape of James Henson from Deputy Fringer's squad car?

If the public listened to the radio transmission when the deputy reported that Henson had kicked out a squad car window and climbed through, what would they hear? A calm, professional voice reporting the facts and the action being taken to prevent his escape?

NIXLE should have been used immediately to alert residents in the immediate area of the escape. As time passed and the opportunity for Henson to move farther from the point of escape, additional NIXLE messages should have been broadcast.

Reverse 9-1-1 calls did go out to alert some Crystal Lake residents. Was this a planned step taken at MCSD? Was the "Reverse 9-1-1" procedure put into operation automatically or was command authority required?

Was anyone unhappy at MCSD that the Reverse 9-1-1 system was used to alert residents?

The NIXLE system should have been used to send emails and text messages to residents. Of course, then a LOT of people would have known about Henson's escape. And they would have been able to act to protect themselves, if needed.

And maybe even someone driving around in the area might have spotted Henson and reported him a lot sooner.

What did it cost McHenry County Sheriff's Department and the Crystal Lake Police Department to conduct an all-night search for Henson?

And how did he get his handcuffs off?

And why isn't MCSD coming clean with the public about what broke down that night? "CYA" comes to mind.

This Sunday at WNHS - "PosABILITIES"

Sunday morning and early afternoon might seem a strange time for a youth conference in a town that is a "church" town. Of course, maybe kids don't go to church.

From 10:00AM until 2:00PM this Sunday, October 30, a Woodstock North High School junior, Zach Brokaw, is producting a youth disabilities awareness fair and exposition.

Zach is working on his Eagle Scout rating and has organized this expo to showcase the capabilities and possibilities that persons with disabilities have.

Want more information? Call 815.404.0154. Be sure to come by WNHS on Sunday! Find out what "PosABILITIES" is all about.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

No "understanding" with deer

The Northwest Herald attempted a little humor in its reader poll today, but it missed the mark. If it thought the third question was funny, it should have included a additional, more serious question, such as "I've not seen a deer in the road this season."

Not sure that "We have an understanding" is the right place for humor regarding its car vs. deer article.

What's been your experience with deer on the road?

I've hit at least one
I've come close
We have an understanding

Sensitive mail that I receive

What happens to the mail, email and faxes I receive that inform me of the goings-on at the McHenry County Sheriff's Department (and other departments)?

After the attempt last Spring by the sheriff's lawyer to force me to cough up 27 months worth of documents, I began destroying them on a regular basis. I intended not to tender them, even if the Court demanded, and I was fully prepared to be jailed for my refusal. I knew that I had received information in confidence, and I would choose jail, rather than divulging the names of informants.

Emails about the dirty secrets at the sheriff's department are deleted, and the recycle bin is regularly cleaned out.

Hard copies are shredded. Various townships sponsor shredding days, when bankers' boxes full of papers can be fed right into the on-site shredder. Small home-type shredders are wonderful.

In other words, I don't keep any documentation. It's gone. History. Down the drain (well, not quite).

Did I think the sheriff's department might try the ol' search warrant route? It's a good thing that they got some good legal advice not to do that. I wonder who gave them that advice. Had they come to my door with a warrant, they could have "tossed" my apartment and they wouldn't have found anything.

Do you have the right to remain on the premises, when deputies are searching your property? I believe you do. I certainly would not have let them search without my being here.

Do they ever do that? Prevent the residents from being home while the home is searched? Should they tell the residents that they cannot be home while the home is being searched? If a deputy tells a person that he or she cannot be home while the home is being searched, has the deputy lied to the homeowner?

Opinions, anyone?

Deputy or not?

The McHenry County Sheriff's Department ought to know the status of each of its employees. And if status changes, it shouldn't be any secret. An employee is either a deputy or not a deputy. Change in status was either voluntary or involuntary.

And shouldn't pay grade be appropriate for training, experience, seniority? And only for that? If a person with little experience and almost no seniority is placed in a new position, shouldn't pay be commensurate with qualifications and experience?

How will the "old hands" feel if the new guy get higher pay?

If a sheriff's department employee committed a serious crime (let's say, a felony), should he (or she) be charged?

If the supervisors and commanders (including the undersheriff and sheriff) don't go forward with charges if they know a felony has been committed by an employee, should they be charged? Aren't they required to do their duty?

No reason has yet been announced for the failure of the Sheriff's Department to utilize NIXLE after James Henson escaped from a squad car. The Sheriff's Department has (so far) refused to identify the deputy in whose custody Henson was or to explain whether he was fully cuffed, in accordance with Departmental policy, or if the cuffs had been taken off (and if so, for what reason).

If Henson was handcuffed behind his back and fastened down to the seat with the seatbelt, there is no way that he could have kicked out a car window and escaped. So, where is the explanation?

Is Jail still ripping off inmates?

Months ago I wrote about the injustice of the price of telephone calls to inmates and detainees in the McHenry County (Illinois) Jail.

Inmates must purchase phone cards to make telephone calls on the secure telephone number from the jail. An electronic system informs those called that the call is coming from the jail. I  have no problem with that. The person called can refuse the call, and the inmate is not charged. If the call is answered by an answering machine, the inmate is not charged.

Rates are based on distance or region called. Woodstock is a local call and at a flat rate with no per-minute charge. Other calls incur a connection fee and a per-minute charge, with overseas calls being the highest cost.

But here's the rub. A full 50% of the phone card cost goes into the Inmate Profit Account, which is supposed to be for the benefit of the inmates. When I last checked, there was a $75,000 balance in that account.

The inmates, of course, have no power to demand a lower mark-up on the phone cards. The mark-up is 100%. With such a huge balance in the Inmate Profit Account, why aren't the Administrators of the Jail figuring out how to give more value to the inmates who purchase phone cards?

I've long wondered if there might be some type of illegal kickback scheme because of the super-lucrative nature of the contract with the jail. Nahh, there couldn't be. Not in McHenry County.. That would never happen here, would it? Everything is always on the up-and-up at the Sheriff's Department. Isn't it?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Woodstock Firetrap

1031 S. East St., Woodstock
Take a good look at this house in Woodstock. Should it be allowed to remain standing? Or should the Fire Department get it for a live fire-fighting exercise?

It's at 1031 South East St., at the corner of Burbank. That's just south of Kimball and east of South Jefferson Street.

How does a house end up in this condition? (Click on the image to enlarge it; then click on the Back button on your browser to come back here.) How long with the City let it remain standing? Just imagine a fire starting in it on a windy date and the havoc caused in the neighborhood.

Woodstock Police reports to City Manager on Beth Bentley case

Is there progress in the Beth Bentley case? Is there any movement at all?

You will never know it from the monthly report of the Woodstock Police Department to the Woodstock City Manager and the City Council, including the Mayor. Why they accept such a report, I don't know! What are the reports of the Police Department for July, August and September?

The report for the month of July 2011 reads:

"The Investigations Division continues to aggressively follow-up (sic) on all leads and investigate the Endangered Missing Person Benedetta 'Beth' Bentley case. The Investigations Division maintains contract with the Illinois State Police and all other Police Agencies involved in this case for updates and sharing of intelligence and information."

The report for the month of August 2011 reads:

"The Investigations Division continues to aggressively follow-up (sic) on all leads and investigate the Endangered Missing Person Benedetta 'Beth' Bentley case. The Investigations Division maintains contract with the Illinois State Police and all other Police Agencies involved in this case for updates and sharing of intelligence and information."

The report for the month of September 2011 reads:

"The Investigations Division continues to aggressively follow-up (sic) on all leads and investigate the Endangered Missing Person Benedetta 'Beth' Bentley case. The Investigations Division maintains contract with the Illinois State Police and all other Police Agencies involved in this case for updates and sharing of intelligence and information."

Notice any similarity? Notice anything strange of unusual about the monthly report from one month to the next? Don't you think that, if there had been anything at all done on this case in one of those months, the P.D. might have said so?

I'm more than curious why the Mayor and City Council have not directed the City Manager to obtain an in-depth report from the Police Department on just exactly what the taxpayers are getting for their money in this case. How many leads have been investigated in the past 3-4 months? How many hours have the detectives put in on this case in the past 3-4 months? How many contacts have there been with other agencies, and with which ones?

Will MCSD succeed in burying Henson story?

Will the McHenry County Sheriff's Department succeed in burying the story of James Henson's original arrest, escape and capture?

Almost a week has passed. Haven't they figured out what happened yet? And what went wrong?

Or haven't they had time yet to create a good story - one that won't blow up too soon or too big?

By now, a couple of employees should be up for discipline. Maybe discharge. Will it happen?

The sheriff of the county has a responsibility to the people. If he's not around (or the battery in his cell phone has run down), then the undersheriff carries that responsibility.

In the words of a sergeant a while back, "Our motto is NOT "to protect and to serve us" - meaning, protect and serve the deputies. They are to protect and serve The People.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Newspapers of the world

Just put your mouse on a city anywhere in the world and the newspaper headlines pop up... 

Double click and the page gets larger ... 
you can read the entire paper on some if you click on the right place.
Also, if you look at the European papers, the far left side of Germany will pop up as The Stars & Stripes (European edition, of course).

The content changes every day with the publication of new editions of the paper.

No wonder Illinois is bankrupt

If you are an online (only) reader of the Northwest Herald, you probably missed this morning's article about the rape of the taxpayers (one more time). This time, with the publicity about two lobbyists with no teaching experience who worked one day as substitute teachers in 2007.

According to the short article, which should have been front-page news, the political director for the Illinois Federation of Teachers and another union lobbyist quickly got teaching certificates and conducted one day of classroom work in 2007, just before the law changed.

Political director Steven Preckwinkle and lobbyist David Piccioli stand to benefit richly from the pension scheme allowed by our wonderful State legislators.

Stated in the article is "Preckwinkle, 59, could collect $2.8 million by the time he's 78. Picciolo, 61, could receive around $1.1 million by age 78.

Maybe it really is about time to kick absolutely every one of the State Representatives and Senators out of office. Even the "good" ones from McHenry County. Could we do any worse with inexperienced, inefficient, unproductive legislators?

Probably anyone who can, should get the heck out of Illinois. Why stick around for the bankruptcy or the revolution? Kind of makes you sick, doesn't it? And these are only two examples...

Worth watching - Newt G. 11/2009

Yesterday a friend emailed me a November 2009 speech by Newt Gingrich. It's worth watching - maybe more than once.>>

Henson escape, capture now "old news"?

Will the "investigation" by the McHenry County Sheriff's Department of James Henson's initial arrest, escape and re-capture ever see the light of day?

The sheriff's department won't even release the name of the deputy from whose patrol car Henson escaped? Why not? Let's see, starts with F, ends with -r.

The more the sheriff's department withholds information from the public, the more the public should demand details.

How is it that Henson was uncuffed when he was captured Thursday morning? Was he uncuffed by a deputy at some point? If so, by whom and why?

What were the circumstances of Henson's Wednesday arrest near a barn? Was he confronted at gunpoint? By whom? Was that legal? If not, will the person pointing the gun be charged?

Remember when the Pavlins were arrested by deputies in their home in McHenry County near Crystal Lake? They were injured and they were charged with resisting arrest. My belief has always been that their arrests were made, so that their injuries could be thought to be justified. Then, more after more than a year of court dates, the criminal charges against Mr. and Mrs. Pavlin were dismissed. And dismissed with prejudice, meaning they would not be re-filed. And now the Pavlins are suing the sheriff's department and numerous deputies in U.S. District Court. And they deserve to win their lawsuit.

Take a look at the charges against Henson:
A. By the Crystal Lake Police, Case 11CF001091
1. Burglary (Felony 2)
2. Criminal Trespass to Land (Misdemeanor)
3. Knowingly Damage Property (less than $300) (Misdemeanor)
Judge Zopp read Henson his rights on October 22; the next court date is October 31 with Judge Condon.

B. By the McHenry County Sheriff's Department: Case 11CF001093
1. Theft - unauthorized control < $500 (Misdemeanor)
2. Burglary (Felony 2)
3. Possess burglary tools (Felony 4)
4. Knowingly damage property ($300-$10,000) (Felony 4)
5. Criminal damage to government property (Felony 4) (this would be the squad car window) (Felony 4)
6. Felony escape from a peace officer (Felony 2)
Judge Weech appointed a public defender for Henson on October 21. Henson's court date in front of Judge Condon is October 31.

Will the reports of the deputies and other persons involved in Wednesday's arrest be complete and truthful? Will they be written independently, without coaching? Or will they "mesh" like gears of a fine Swiss watch in an effort to eliminate questions about what happened?

Supervisors and command personnel should be expected to demand that all deputies and officers who were involved to write complete, truthful, accurate reports of exactly what they know. Then those reports should be put side-by-side, so that investigators can attempt to determine exactly what happened.

If, as in some cases in the past, deputies have been assembled for the purpose of writing their reports, it will be much harder for the public to learn exactly what happened.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Why did Beth Bentley disappear?

Week 74, and no Beth.

Beth Bentley, 41 when she vanished in May 2010, was a Woodstock mother, wife, manager of a legal office in McHenry and legal secretary to her husband, Scott Bentley. Also, friend of Jennifer Wyatt, with whom she reportedly traveled to Mount Vernon, Illinois, late Thursday, May 20, 2010.

Did she? Jenn says so. Where did they stay? Reportedly at a house in Mount Vernon that is owned by the Ridge family (of Woodstock) and which was being rehabbed by Ryan Ridge. You'd think that, just maybe, at least one statement from Ryan Ridge might have reached the public. Has it? Not to my knowledge. Same with any statement by his younger brother, Nathan Ridge, who reportedly was in Mount Vernon that week-end.

If Jenn and Beth reached Mount Vernon early on Friday morning and went to the Ridge house and spent the week-end there, then Jenn, Ryan and Nathan know the events of that week-end. They know who did what, when and where.

Since this is "just" a missing person case, why haven't those details been released? Woodstock Police claim that releasing details could hinder their investigation. What investigation? Investigation of what?

Maybe, if those details had been released, somebody might have shown up and said, "Whoa! Wait a minute! I know something different."

How many holes are there in Jenn's story about that Monday, October 24, 2010, when she was supposed to meet up with Beth, so they could return to Woodstock together and so that Beth could get home before Scott got home from work. Telephone records don't support that story. What's the real story?

Investigate the sheriff?

Should a Special Prosecutor be appointed to investigate Sheriff Keith Nygren?

Out-of-favor Deputy Zane Seipler (yes, he is still Deputy Zane Seipler) has a petition in McHenry County Circuit Court, requesting appointment of a Special Prosecutor to investigate wrong-doing by Sheriff Nygren. The next court date is Tuesday, October 25, 9:00AM.

Admittedly, the County is still reeling over the recently failed efforts of special prosecutors to nail State's Attorney Lou Bianchi. And, when the final bills from the two special prosecutors and from Lou's defense attorney hit the public eye, the County Board and, more importantly, the taxpayers will be screaming loudly.

But should that legal action have any bearing on whether a special prosecutor is appointed to snoop around in Nygren's dirty laundry? No. In fact, NO! In fact, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. The two are completely unrelated. (Well, not quite, since the Sheriff apparently didn't take any action against its employee who had possession of the Amy Dalby flash drive that contained all the documents stolen from the State's Attorney's office.)

McHenry County State's Attorney Lou Bianchi has said he cannot be a prosecutor to investigate Nygren, because he represents the sheriff. By statute, he is the legal counsel for the sheriff's department (and the Sheriff, in his official capacity). And he's right. He can't take off the "I defend the sheriff" cap and then put on the "I will investigate the sheriff" cap.

For some yet-to-be-learned reason, Bianchi pulled Assistant State's Attorney Don Leist off the case and asked Judge Meyer to appoint Woodstock attorney Bill Caldwell to represent the County in its fight to prevent appointment of a special prosecutor. And Judge Meyer did just that, rejecting Nygren's request for his choice of attorney, Mark Gummerson, at taxpayer expense.

Judge Meyer made short work out of that end-run by Nygren. Certainly, far less work than Gummerson will bill for writing up a ten-page petition. I wonder if Nygren will foot that bill personally or if he'll find a way to run it through the sheriff's department's books. Where's the County Auditor? I hope he (or she) has sharpened his pencils and polished his green eye-shade to watch for that billing.

Why doesn't the Chairman of the County Board, Ken Koehler, step up to the plate and declare in favor of an investigation? Why doesn't he demand an investigation to clear the air? Seems he thinks Nygren has done no wrong. OK, so give a special prosecutor a couple of hundred grand to find out. Maybe he'll nose around and decide that no charges are to be filed. Weighed against the $600 grand that Nygren has wasted fighting Seipler's three cases, $200K would be a justified expense by the County.

Just make sure that there is an independent special prosecutor. Maybe somebody like U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald - someone of that caliber.

If he comes up lily white, then Nygren can slide on back to Florida for the winter and enjoy a few more weeks' vacation before he pulls the plug and retires, yielding the reins to Undersheriff Andy Zinke.

Save the date - Nov. 19

Mark your calendars for the 2nd Annual Community Dinner and Fundraiser for Jail Brakers to be held on Saturday, November 19, at the Woodstock Moose Lodge, starting at 4:00PM.

Jail Brakers is grassroots organization that serves families of men and women who are in jail, whether a local county jail or state prison. Through support groups, activities and events Jail Brakers focuses on elevating family identity and cohesion, as well as on lessening isolation. There will be door prizes, Turkey Bingo, an auction and musical entertainment.

Watch for more information here on November 12. Can't wait? Email

Saturday, October 22, 2011

When is a cop not a cop?

A little story about a situation that really happened in Colorado.

Reserve deputies in the Arapahoe County (Colo.) Sheriff's Posse in the mid-1970s were sworn peace officers. We had commissions that were good 24/7, and we were permitted to carry off-duty. We had all the powers that full-time, paid deputies had. We were trained and were authorized to make arrests. And we went to court, just like the full-time deputies.

There were only two differences. Our uniform trousers were tan, rather than blue. And we didn't get a paycheck. Oh, another difference. We bought our own uniforms, leather and weapon. And there was no uniform allowance.

One reserve deputy had worked as a reserve deputy in Dade County, Florida. Arapahoe County was a piece of cake after Dade County, he said.

In about 1976 a new sheriff came to town and, while he let us carry off-duty, he pulled our 24/7 commission. Thereafter, we were only on duty when we were in uniform. Some of us stopped carrying at that time. I also complained about commuting for duty, armed and in uniform, on my police-equipped harley-Davidson. I asked the sheriff what I was to do, if a citizen flagged me down and told me the bank was being robbed. Should I give the citizen a dime and tell him to call it in? After all, the rules were that I wasn't on duty until I got to the lot and picked up my portable radio.

One day this guy from Dade County walked into a convenience store while it was being robbed. He captured the robber at gunpoint and held him until the uniforms got there. Unfortunately for him, he "announced" himself, forgetting that the rules had changed. And the Department made his life miserable after that, even charging him.

So, what happened when (escapee) Henson was arrested? Was he first approached by someone with a gun who is not a deputy? It's just one of the rumors flying around that needs to be addressed and answered for the public.

And if he was approached by a non-law enforcement officer who brandished a weapon at him and threatened to blow his (you know the word) head off, is that a crime? It sure would be if I did it. And if pocket items were described as something else and classified as burglary tools, wouldn't that be a crime?

Escapee investigation - how thorough?

How did it happen that escapee Henson was captured on Thursday morning and was not wearing the handcuffs which presumably had been put on, when he was arrested Wednesday evening?

Was MCSD policy followed, when the handcuff were put on? Was he cuffed behind his back? Were the cuffs put on with the key opening toward his elbows, not toward his hands? Were they double-locked? Was he searched for a hidden handcuff key? Like, maybe taped inside his belt in the back?

Is Henson a smoker? Is there any chance he asked for a cigarette "to calm his nerves", as well as to distract the deputy? Would a handcuffed prisoner ever be allowed to smoke, like in a squad car (government property, subject to smoking restriction imposed by the County), knowing that, once he got to the jail, chances were very small that he would be allowed to smoke?

Not impossible, from what I've heard. Sometimes, do detectives take prisoners outside to smoke? Like, if they want to "talk"?

Will the "thorough" investigation (wink, wink; by MCSD itself, not by an outside agency) include whether Henson was offered a smoke? And, if he was, who was to hold the cigarette? Did a deputy offer to light the cigarette and lift the cigarette to his lips? Would the deputy have worn gloves, to avoid contact with "bodily fluids" (saliva)? Would there be a risk of getting bitten?

Or, is there any chance that Henson was uncuffed and allowed to hold the cigarette himself? And then, when he kicked out a window of the squad car, would he have had his hands free to slide through the window, either feet first or head first and not fall and injure himself?

And, if that did happen, what discipline will be administered to a deputy? Will the deputy get a day off to consider the error of her ways?

One thing you can bet on. The public is not likely to learn the full extent of the investigation into this escape. It will be handled "administratively", out of sight of the public and of the press.

What would be a better way? For Sheriff Nygren to reveal the complete results of the investigation promptly and the action he takes, if he finds any Department policies were violated.  Likely to happen this way? Thoughts, anyone?

The big, bad wolf cometh...

The Northwest Herald reported yesterday morning that the Woodstock City Council approved a hike in parking fines last Tuesday night "with no discussion".

Why was there no discussion? Items reaching the City Council appear on an agenda for the meeting. Most items slide through without discussion or individual consideration, because they are voted on as part of the Consent Agenda. To get individual discussion, a Council member must request that an item be pulled. A member of the public can ask for an item to be pulled for discussion; if a Council member then is willing to ask for that, then it is pulled. Usually, Council members agree.

But the increase in parking fines drew no attention and no discussion. Not one Council member or the Mayor objected to a 100% increase in parking fines on all City streets (except the Square). Now there is nothing left but the screaming and gnashing of teeth.

So I guess I'm glad that I got my one parking ticket in Woodstock in February 1996, on my first morning in Woodstock. There were no warning signs on the highway into Woodstock, and I did not know of the overnight parking restriction. On my windshield I found my parking violation. "Welcome to Woodstock. We're glad you are here and see that you are from Virginia. Pay $5 or else. And have a good time in Woodstock."

Now, instead of $5, the City of Woodstock has decided to nail parking violators $20.

All this causes me to wonder why the Woodstock Police don't uniformly enforce parking violations. Some areas get rigorous attention, which accounts for the $3,000 or so in monthly parking fines. And some residents, who violate parking laws every night, do not ever get a ticket. Is this fair?

The City didn't have to increase the parking fine. All it had to do was order that every parking violator got a parking ticket, every time. In a month, don't you think a resident would "get the message" from 30 $10 parking tickets?

Parking fines were worth $19,515 to Woodstock in the first six months of 2011. This pace could mean $39,000 is sucked out of Woodstock pockets in 2011.

Look what happens if you don't cough up your $20 fast enough. If the fine is unpaid for 30 days, it jumps to $50. That's a 150% increase. Is this illegal? Usurious? Extortion?

And look at another unfair aspect of the parking violations. If you violate parking rules on the Square, you get a pass the first time. All you get is a warning, which very likely ends up on the ground or in a trash barrel. After that, the second violation gets you a $10 fine; $20 for the third violation; $30 for the third. Does this open the City of Woodstock to a constitutional challenge of its parking fines off the Square?

A street is a street. Can you imagine if the City Council decided to nail parking violators on the Square for $20 for the first time?

Was there any notice of the parking violation fines increase? Sure there was. All you had to do was go to City Hall or the Woodstock Library after 1:00PM last Friday and read the packet that was prepared for Council members? Like, who does that?

Think that was enough notice? I don't. And publishing the agenda online on Friday afternoon isn't enough notice either, because the details of action to be taken at the next City Council meeting are not fully disclosed. If you did happen to review the agenda online before the meeting, here's what you would have seen:

"(Item) 7. Parking Ticket Increase - Adoption of an Ordinance amending various fine provisions of the Woodstock City Code."

Would that have been enough to wean you away from your TV that night? I doubt it. Was it carefully worded to cause anyone who did read it to believe that only some fines would increased whereas, in reality, all were being increased, except for streets on the Square.

Drug testing for public employees

Should periodic drug testing be required of public employees?

I am hearing more and more stories of illegal drug use by employees of various governmental employees.

Are there police officers, sheriff's deputies (and corrections officers), firefighters and other governmental employees who are using illegal drugs? The only way to find out is random drug screens.

A department should establish and announce a program of random screenings and then "surprise" employees regularly with required screenings. A rehab program should follow the first positive test; a second positive should result in termination. Or should prosecution follow the first positive?

I was visiting in Judge Weech's mental health court yesterday at 1:00PM and observed him reading the riot act to one defendant who was regularly missing court-ordered drug screens. This defendant was not showing up for appointments with the probation officer, at which a drug screen would be performed.

For Judge Weech, refusing to show up on numerous occasions for a drug screen is the same as a positive result. In other words, if a defendant knows he'll test positive, he would not want to submit to a drug screen; right?

This defendant was ordered to show up every Monday morning for the next two months for a drug screen. If the defendant is a no-show, Judge Weech will issue an arrest warrant.

Illegal drugs are an insidious, vicious part of our culture today. Once a person is hooked, it is very, very hard to go clean and stay clean. But it can be done. It takes will power (often very difficult to muster and maintain against the cravings of the body for the drug(s)), professional help that is available, and the right kind of support system, family or otherwise. The biggest ingredient to success is the personal decision and that it very likely cannot be done alone. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

T-shirts coming down

Thanks to Crystal Lake attorney Matthew Haiduk, the t-shirts at the courthouse (McHenry County Government Center) will be removed today.

I'm waiting to hear back from Matt with the date of his complaint about the t-shirts. I'm wondering what his initial reception was, how many obstacles were thrown up at him, and why it took more than a week for the County, in the personage of County Administrator Peter Austin, to decide to remove them. Why did it take a committee to decide to remove them, but only one person to approve their going up in the first place?

Haiduk may have won the battle, but he might not have won the war.

Austin apparently told a reporter that the issue of a Turning Point display will be re-visited next year. Why?

Doesn't the County get it? Any anti-domestic violence display inside the courthouse is wrong. It holds the potential to influence a jury in a domestic violence case.

Maybe County officials should know the story of a wholesale tire salesman who was trying to sell his tires to a Big 3 auto manufacturer years ago. He couldn't get to first base with the buyer at the manufacturer. So he followed the guy home a few days and then bought space on some big billboards along the guy's route home. "BUY SUCH-AND-SUCH TIRES", the signs proclaimed.

A few weeks later the salesman again called the buyer. This time he was told, "Come on in and talk to me. I've been thinking about buying your tires."

Do subliminal messages work? You bet. And that's why the t-shirts have to come down!!! And not go back up next year!

Investigation into escape?

A headline on Page 1 of today's Northwest Herald reads, "Burglary suspect's escape still under investigation."

Well, I would hope so. And it ought to be conducted by an outside agency. And it won't be.

Let's start with these questions:

* Who were the first deputies at the scene where Henson was found?
* Did any deputies arrive who were not assigned by radio?
* If a non-assigned deputy did arrive (early? fast? first?), did he inform the dispatcher that he was close and would/could respond? Did he get supervisor approval to respond?
* Did any deputy arrive who was not in uniform and in his personal vehicle? If so, how did he learn of the radio call?
* Were any weapons drawn at the time Henson was found on late Wednesday afternoon?
* If, as the paper says, deputies responded at 5:54PM, what was the delay in transporting Henson to the Jail? He escaped at 7:39PM.
* Were the handcuffs put on snugly, hands behind his back, and double-locked?
* Had Henson's seatbelt been fastened?
* How was Henson secured in the back seat of the squad car that allowed him to kick out the window of the left rear door?
* How did he squeeze through the broken-out window? Head first? Feet first? Why didn't the deputy grab him as he exited the vehicle?
* How did the deputy alert dispatch that Henson was attempting to escape or that he had escaped? Were radio communications conducted in a professional manner?
* Was Henson actually burglarizing the barn, or was he looking for a place to get in out of the cold for the night?
* How did Henson get the handcuffs off? The paper said Henson was not wearing the handcuffs when taken in custody on Thursday morning.
* Where did procedures break down that NIXLE was not used Wednesday night?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Beth Bentley is missed

A reader sent the following comment today regarding my continuing coverage of the missing Beth Bentley:

"I live in Southern IL and came across your blog as I was searching for information on Beth Bentley. I appreciate your coverage of her case as you are, from what I have seen, fairly alone in reporting on her case and getting the information out there. I am trying to go back through all of your posts concerning Beth and was wondering if you have an area where all of these posts are compiled, or if I have to keep searching through the links (year, month, etc.) on the side of the page."

I replied that my blog can be searched, using the Blogger search window on the left end of the horizontal blue bar.

MCSD comes through with NIXLE - worthless

The McHenry County Sheriff's Department finally came through with a NIXLE message about the escapee in Crystal Lake.

At 9:12AM MCSD broadcast an alert that the escaped prisoner had been captured.

Bravo. Three cheers. Of course, that's not as much news as his escape would have been!

But what about the lack of a NIXLE alert during the 12 hours of James Hensen's brief freedom from the squad car of Deputy (well, I have her name, but I'll let the Northwest Herald identify her)?

Hensen roamed the streets and woods for about 12 hours before being taken back into custody. Presumably, he was still handcuffed, although the article announcing his capture didn't mention that.

With all the tens (hundreds?) of thousands of dollars spent on FBI training, ISP training, Master's Degrees at Northwestern University and all that stuff for MCSD employees, wasn't there anyone who thought about a NIXLE alert about 9:00PM yesterday?

Or why didn't Crystal Lake PD put out an alert, since this was right in its backyard? Or did they?

Or did someone think of it, and then a superior put the kabosh on it?

Timothy Smith - case continued

This morning's one-minute hearing in front of Judge Condon in the Timothy Smith first-degree murder case resulted is approval of a motion by the defense for a phone call for Smith and a continuance. For how long could not be clearly heard over the speaker connected to the courtroom.

The hearings for Smith are conducted in the jail's courtroom, sometimes referred to as bond court. The sheriff's department claimed a while back that it had heard rumors of threats against Smith and decided to request that the hearings be held in the jail court, where a window (presumably bullet-proof glass) "protects" the defendant, the lawyers, the judge, etc. Frankly, I am suspicious of the sheriff's department's claim of the suspected "rumor", and they've had plenty of time to investigate it. If they weren't able to confirm it and make an arrest, then Smith's case should be moved back to Judge Condon's courtroom in the government center.;

In court today Smith was accompanied by his public defender and monitored by a corrections officers and another officer dressed in a black, long-sleeved sweatshirt with the word "sheriff" on the sleeve. Maybe he was there to protect Smith from the Assistant State's Attorney, since there was no way that anyone in the visitors area could get at him, not that we intended to or wanted to.

As usual, visitors to the jail court are refused entry, unless they present identification and leave their coats, keys, phones, etc. in a locker in the jail's lobby. Each time I enter, I do so under protest. There is no reason whatsoever to require that. The courtroom is not in a secure area of the jail, just as the jail visiting area with the videoconferencing equipment is not in a secure area.

This requirement exceeds that in the government center, and today I shall file a protest with the Illinois Attorney General, the Illinois Supreme Court, the ARDC and the ACLU. The People need to stand up and squawk. Courtrooms are to be open to the public. You should be free to come and go without identifying yourself.

Here we go again - continuance after continuance

Another continuance occurred in the criminal prosecution of Kimberly Smith this week. How many will there be? Will this case drag on for two-three years?

What is magical in McHenry County Circuit Court about "See you again in 30 days". Why don't judges set action to occur within the time-frame of a continuance and then demand answers and explanations at the next hearing? As it is, attorney after attorney parade in front of judges with requests for more continuances. It wouldn't have anything to do with generating fees, would it? I've never heard a judge ask a follow-up question about the results in the previous 30 days.

Smith, wife of Timothy Smith, who is jailed as the accused murderer of Kurt Milliman last May, is charged with prostitution (a misdemeanor) and three felonies (two counts of obstructing justice and one count of false reporting).

Why wasn't she charged as an accomplice to first-degree murder? Allegedly, her husband and she offered sex for money, and she was right there when Milliman was shot by Timothy Smith. And then the Smiths attempted to concoct a story before dialing 9-1-1 to summon sheriff's deputies, who then summoned paramedics.

Will the State's Attorney's Office refuse any "deal" and take this case to trial? Would a "deal" mean that the public might not learn more about what really happened that night? If Kimberly Smith were under oath and facing 20-30 years in prison, would she sing a different tune? Of course, there is the husband-wife thing. Does that work in Illinois?

Who were Kimberly Smith's friends? Have investigators in the State's Attorney's Office (outside the sheriff's department) carefully investigated the list of "friends"?

How will her cases be resolved?

Escapee still on the loose?

Is an escapee still on the loose in Crystal Lake?

According to this morning's Northwest Herald, a prisoner escaped in the Crystal Lake area last evening. Well, maybe last evening. It seems that the McHenry County Sheriff's Department may have directed automated telephone message to a few residents in the area of Hillside and Walkup about a man who escaped - while handcuffed!

Lots of detail, eh? Residents were were at home or who later listened to messages on their answering machines got the message. Why wasn't NIXLE used?

What about residents out for an evening walk? Or walking their dogs? Why didn't the Sheriff's Department send out a message that would hit cell phones, smartphones, and email boxes of people still at work who might be driving home and drive right past the escapee?

The Northwest Herald article said that the man "escaped police custody." Is that the Crystal Lake Police or the McHenry County Sheriff's Department? Do reporters understand the difference and distinguish between "police" and "deputy sheriff"?

The reporter must not be from this area, since Walkup was spelled "Walk Up" Road.

I posted the following comment a few minutes ago: "Why isn't a Northwest Herald editor calling Zinke and Nygren every 30 minutes and demanding complete information? Where is the wonderful NIXLE system? Where is more recent news? Has the escapee been captured? How did he escape? If he escaped from "police custody", is that from the Crystal Lake Police or the Sheriff's Department? What is the escapee's name? Come on, BE a newspaper!"

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Serious charges nolle prossed

Judge Prather must have gotten up on the right side of the bed this morning. And the public defender swung a good deal for a defendant in a 402 Conference in Case No. 11CF000836.

Back on August 21, Joshua Velmont was charged with felony possession of a controlled substance, misdemeanor possession of cannabis, and misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia.

A reader contacted me and complained that Josh just had a prescribed medication with him that was not in its container and he really wasn't guilty of the felony.

In court today the attorneys and the judge met in a 402 Conference and the deal was that the felony would be dropped and the misdemeanor cannabis possession charge would be dropped. Well, not quite "dropped"; the legal term is nolle prosequi or nolle prossed, which means "not prosecuted".

And he was fined $1,304 in fines, court costs and fees, plus sentenced to probation, one-year supervision and conditional discharge. Which means that, if he keeps his nose clean for a year, the charges are dismissed. Then he could file to have the charges expunged, which might or might not fly. But he won't get his $1,304 back.

I've never been able to satisfy myself that it's fair to drop charges but keep the money.

So, if Josh, whom I don't know, had a prescribed medication with him but out of the container, why did the cop in Wonder Lake charge him with felony possession? And why did the State's Attorney's Office allow the felony charge? Just because he could? I think cops don't understand what it means to charge somebody with a crime and not be able to have the proof to get a conviction. So now this court record of a felony charge is there for any employer to see.

What would it have cost to go to trial and fight the felony? Was he absolutely certain he was innocent? Would a finding of Not Guilty be better than nolle prossed? Of course, you can never be certain of an outcome in court, which is why so many defendants accept "deals".

Don't kick penguins this week-end

Okay, should that read "Don't Kick Penguins" will be this week-end?

This Saturday, Oct. 22, at McHenry County College the Principled Minds not-for-profit group will sponsor the Second Annual "Don't Kick Penguins" program. The target audience is middle-school students (and their parents). There must be thousands in McHenry County.

The place to be on Saturday is MCC, and the time is 8:30AM. The program consists of a series of 45-minute seminars on topics such as same-sex relationships, social self-image and ethnic and racial issues.

What if 300-400-500 students and parents showed up this Saturday? Well, if that happens, event organizers might just be overwhelmed. But they'll figure out how to deal with the crowds; don't worry about that.

So get those kids out of their beds, into the car, and arrive by 8:30AM; maybe earlier. Bring $10 for each one for the t-shirt, food and drinks. No money? Show up, anyway.

Students will get to choose three workshops from the nine to be offered, and parents will gather in the Conference Center for condensed presentations of all nine.

For more information, go to Facebook and enter Don't Kick Penguins.

Are police investigating Delisi death?

Think there is any activity at the Woodstock Police Department into the suspicious death of Robert Delisi? His body was found on the Metra Railroad tracks near the Woodstock Police station on September 13.

Toxicology results were to be available in 2-3 weeks. Because the McHenry County Coroner decided not to conduct an inquest, will the public ever learn the results of lab work? Why is this important?

The public will only know if the results are "important" after they are released.

Did Delisi end up on the tracks under his own power, or did someone put his body there? If someone did, they must not have realized, fortunately, that the outbound Metra tracks were not in service, due to construction at the Calhoun Street grade crossing. Outbound rail traffic was temporarily diverted to the inbound tracks during the repairs.

I didn't know Delisi, but there are many people in Woodstock who are involving in the drug scene. These include users, dealers, suppliers and onlookers. There is no such thing as an innocent onlooker or bystander, when illegal drugs are in use or changing hands.

Many think that marijuana use is harmless. Others tell a different story. Does marijuana use lead to cocaine and heroin use? And to all the collateral crimes that occur, to support the drug habit?

Any guesses as to the percentage of Woodstock (Ill.) residents who uses drugs illegally? Where do they get them? Are dealers giving away drugs, to get new customers "hooked"? Hint - like in the high schools or middle schools in Woodstock?

Driver hits building in apt. complex

Photo by Joe Tambone
Yesterday a driver from Harvard didn't hit her brakes hard enough or in time and smashed into an entrance to a building at the Willow Brooke Apartments in Woodstock. She was lucky, and certainly any residents or visitors of the building were extremely lucky.

The Northwest Herald carried a short story about it this morning but didn't run a photo. The paper's headline referred to the vehicle as a "minivan".Is this vehicle a "minivan"?

Woodstock Police and Woodstock Fire Rescue responded. The woman, who was not identified in the newspaper article, was not charged with any violation, probably because the crash happened on private property.

Isn't there a vehicular control agreement in effect between Willow Brooke Apartments and the Woodstock Police Department? Such an agreement would allow the police to enforce Illinois traffic laws in the parking lots of the apartment community.

What would cause a driver to turn into a parking space but fail to stop? Distracted driving? Cell phone in use? Texting? Reading a text message? Fiddling with a radio dial? Paying attention to a child or animal in the car, instead of watching where the car was going?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Did City pay Gorski yet?

On September 22 the Woodstock Police Pension Board met and decided to pay former Sgt. Steve Gorski for injuries received while he was on duty. In its infinite wisdom, the Board considered all the facts, such as that Gorski had arrived at the scene of a fatal crash in a Woodstock squad car (so he must have been in uniform and on duty) and injured his back while at the crash scene. And then it ruled that he was off-duty at the time he was injured.

Somebody help me here...  What am I missing?

Of course, by ruling that he was off-duty, the City is going to owe Gorski less money. That conclusion ought to worry every police officer at the Woodstock P.D.

Gorski's attorney asked the Board if it was going to make payment to Sgt. Gorski before the 21 days had passed, saying that that is "usually" how it happens. Hearing officer John Kelly, from a Naperville law firm (does he get paid his regular hourly rate during his commute to and from Woodstock?), said "they" (whoever "they" are) would start processing payment after verifying salary from the 2007 date of injury (that's FOUR years, folks) and that they would not be holding up on payment.

Famous last words, right?

How does this work? The Police Pension Board rules that payment should be made. Then what? Does some beancounter punch numbers into a calculator, figure out deductions, and order a check cut? Or does the administration of the City (City Manager? City Council? Mayor?) have to approve the action of the Police Pension Board?

How long will they drag that out? And if there is a fight over whether the injury was really an on-duty injury and compensable at a higher rate, will the City go ahead and pay the amount approved by the Police Pension Board now, or will it hold that up while the final battle is fought?

The Board also announced that its written decision would be issued within 21 days of September 22. That would have been October 13, about a week ago. I wonder if it was issued.

Take down t-shirts at courthouse!!!

I must agree with Attorney Matt Haiduk in his complaint about the t-shirts in the courthouse. Did you read today's front-page article in the Northwest Herald?

I admit, though, that as many times as I have been in the courthouse and walked up and down the stairs from the first to the third floor, I never one read any of the messages on the t-shirts, and my curiosity was not piqued at all by their being there. (Wait, folks; I still do see red lights when I'm driving!)

But I agree with Attorney Haiduk that they do not belong in the courthouse, now that my attention has been called to their message. The courthouse is a place of justice (well, it is supposed to be...). Defendants who enter the courthouse are presumed to be innocent.

A while back I wrote about the comment of a defense attorney to me, when I asked that attorney about Turning Point. I won't repeat the words that were used, but I got the impression that misery awaits any man on whom Turning Point sets its sight. He won't be "presumed innocent."

Court Administrator Dan Wallis ducked when Haiduk complained to him, and he passed the buck to County Administrator Peter Austin. Pete told a reporter that he signed this year's request "without thought" (OK, so I'm quoting him out-of-context), and will bring up the issue at a meeting with courthouse officials tomorrow.

Sorry, Pete; not good enough. You should have revoked the permit and taken down the display. Then bring it up with courthouse officials. Who are those "courthouse officials", anyway.? The buck stops with the County Administrator. By the time a decision is made by a "committee", the month will be over and the display's permit will have expired. That Wednesday meeting must be an internal administrative meeting, not involving elected persons, because it is not on the County Calendar. Thus, won't all the attendees be lower in the pecking order than the County Administrator?

Okay, everyone. Mark your 2012 calendars for May 1 and let the County Administrator know what you think about "inflammatory political speech" (in the words of Woodstock attorney Dan Hofmann) in the halls of justice. Don't let these t-shirts return in 2012.

By the way, how did Jenny Kane get past security with her camera? Anyone trying to enter the courthouse is threatened with having their camera(s) confiscated by courthouse security officers, who tell persons with cameras that they will not get back anything that is confiscated.

Grafton Township legal bills - yikes!

Linda Moore, Supervisor of Grafton Township, issued a press release yesterday. Pity the folks who live in Graftton Township... When all of the Grafton Township voters realize that their elected trustees allowed $340,000 to be blown out of town, what will the reaction be at the polls on the next voting opportunity? If there was every a reason to "throw the bums out", now there are 340,000 of them.

Of course, I don't think the trustees are "bums"; it's just a phrase, don't you know?


Linda Moore, Supervisor of Grafton Township, said that she went to court this morning because she is morally opposed to paying the excessive and unreasonable legal fees she believes are being charged to Grafton Township.  “The attorney’s fees charged by the trustees’ attorneys are a lot more than my attorney’s fees,” Moore observed, “and my lawyer charges more per hour.”  Unfortunately, the court ruled that paying the trustees’ legal bills with tax dollars was a ministerial duty of the supervisor.  The court did not allow argument to determine if the legal bills of the law firm, Ancel-Glink, were reasonable or proper bills. 

Of particular concern, Moore said, was a recent bill submitted for the appeal of whether her attorney would be appointed as the township attorney.  “My attorney’s litigation fees are approximately $49,000, while the trustees’ attorneys have been paid a total of $340,000 (emphasis added) for litigation.  “I just think the trustees’ attorneys are too expensive.  They could get good representation for a more reasonable price.”

Ms. Moore said the court’s order compelling payment of over $45,000 in additional fees will be complied with.  “I started this litigation because the trustees literally threw me out of my office,” Moore said.  “I’m back, thanks to the court order.  Now I just want this thing to end and find a good reasonably priced, township attorney.”  She added, “The trustees will probably want to appeal this whole thing and cost the township a fortune.”

Moore pledged to continue her fight for the taxpayers of Grafton Township.  “It’s time for Grafton Township officials to consider cost-cutting measures, we just can’t keep up with this rate of spending.”

Monday, October 17, 2011

Where are the workers?

Where are the workers today in downtown Woodstock, where the streets are torn up for the "streetscape" improvements?

A beautiful day in October, perfect for pouring concrete and finishing a job, so that some semblance of order can be restored and the merchants can feel like they are back in business. And where are the workers and cement trucks? Nowhere in sight; that's for sure. They ought to be swarming all over every corner, finishing this job quickly and eliminating the interference with business-as-usual.

If a survey of downtown merchants and customers on the Square were done, I wonder what they'd have to say. And what will they say, after the job is done?

A. It's beautiful; it was worth the inconvenience and the wait.
B. It's nice, but ...
C. What a waste of money!

Wouldn't some "Pardon our mess" signs be nice? And maybe some signs announcing the targeted completion date? And utilizing DBTR's comment last week of some smiley faces on the signs that could be changed from frowns to smiles, as completion date nears?

Then Woodstock could really be the little town that cares!

Tired of the struggle?

"How can parents get back control over their homes if they can't control themselves? How can we teach our kids self-control if we don't model it? We show parents and teachers step-by-step how to discipline AND build close, trusting relationships. It's unlike any training you've ever experienced. And it's coming to Chicago. If YOU act."

Can you relate to the above?

Contact your schools now. Forward this to principals, staff, teachers and other decision-makers in your school district. Ask them to bring Kirk Martin to McHenry County during the week of January 18-23.

For information on Kirk's programs, go to and call Brett at 888.506.1871 regarding scheduling and information.

Driver at risk in Tollway work zone

A Letter to the Editor in this morning's Northwest Herald reports the risks incurred by a driver on the Illinois Tollway in our area. Nick Chirikos of Algonquin drove with his family recently on westbound I-90 from Algonquin to the Illinois-Wisconsin state line. On that drive he spent 46 miles in a Work Zone.

Mr. Chirikos must be the only other law-abiding driver in northern Illinois. Feeling adequately warned by the threat of a $375 fine if he got caught speeding, Mr. Chirikos obeyed the 45MPH speed limit - almost, as he wrote that he set his vehicle's cruise control at 47MPH. If his vehicle is like mine, there is a slight error between the speed shown on the speedometer and the true speed of the vehicle.

When my GPS indicates 45MPH, my speedometer shows 47MPH. Frankly, I trust my GPS is the more accurate of the two. So let's assume that Mr. Chirikos was traveling exactly at 45MPH.

What was his experience? "... the most life-threatening hour we have ever experienced". He was tailgated. Actually, it's worse than tailgating when an angry driver runs right up behind you and then swerves in the passing lane. It's a sign of aggression; it's a threat; it's prosecutable, if you can find a trooper to stop the violator. He was cut off by other angry driver who swerved right back into the lane after passing him.

The BIG question is why is a construction zone 46 miles long or, at least, why is a Work Zone speed limit in place for the entire construction zone? Highway engineers give little, if any, thought to the disruption in traffic or to the plight of law-abiding drivers like Mr. Chirikos (or me).

Why doesn't ISP Director Hiram Grau drag himself up to northern Illinois and ride with Mr. Grau or me in that Work Zone? At the speed limit, Director Grau. No fair speeding. Then order your troopers to enforce the speed limit, and not at 10-12-15-20MPH over the posted speed limit. AT the speed limit. That's what the speed LIMIT is; it's the Limit!

The following email was sent to the ISP FOIA Officer this morning:

This is a Freedom of Information Act request for documentation (or information) pertaining to operations of the Illinois State Police work zone radar van(s) and mailed-tickets program.

An acceptable response will be a copy of reports or memoranda which generally answer my request. I do not wish to place an unnecessary burden on the Illinois State Police to respond to my request.

Please provide documentation or information which will generally provide the following information:

1. Number of radar computerized tickets issued by the Illinois State Police in the last 30, 60, 90 and 365 days.
2. Number of days when the radar vans were in use.
3. Locales (by county, city or Interstate) where the vans were used.
4. Disposition or estimate thereof of tickets issued; i.e., the number paid without contest; the number contested, requiring court appearance by ISP trooper; the number dismissed.
5. the speed tolerance (number of MPH)  granted to drivers over the posted Work Zone speed limit before a ticket is generated.
6. the percentage of tickets not issued after manual review of computer results
7. the categories of exceptions to issuing a ticket (ex., police car exceeding speed limit without emergency equipment in use; State of Illinois government vehicles; personal vehicles of legislators, etc.)
8. Number of tickets issued by mail by troopers operating the radar vans to drivers using handheld cell phones in Work Zones.

Information received from you may be published in articles on my blog ( Response by email will be acceptable.

Thank you in advance for your assistance.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Milliman 5K, Nov. 6 - save the date

On Sunday, November 6, a 5K benefit plan is being planned for Scott Milliman by his daughter, Jessica. The course will be at the Three Oaks Recreation Area (Crystal Lake, Ill.) with an 8:00AM start.

The theme is "No Hurdle Too High". Scott is currently undergoing chemotherapy again for a recurrence of brain cancer.

Pre-registration ($15.00) is due by Friday, October 21.
Race Day registration is $20.00
Race materials indicate that the City of Crystal Lake will nail you for $5 for parking at Three Oaks.

Race items are available: T-shirts ($15); hats ($10); stickers ($5); and Scott's book, My New Family, ($10). Shirts, hats and the book are available only by pre-order. Stickers by pre-order or on race day.

Registration can be mailed to Anita Zeken. Checks should be made payable to The Milliman Fund.

Contact information for forms and additional information:

Jessica Milliman, 815.219.3232;

Sponsors include Baird & Warner, State Farm Insurance (Nick Slaughter, agent), Xtgraphics in Wauconda, Country Donuts, Conscious Cup Coffee, General Store, and Einstein Bagels.

Beth Bentley - Week 73

And one more week has passed, with no apparent interest or further investigation into the disappearance of Beth Bentley. Beth was 41 when she disappeared sometime between May 20-23, 2010 and someplace between Woodstock, Illinois, and Mount Vernon, Illinois.

Beth has not been heard from or seen since her friend, co-worker and traveling companion of the week-end, Jennifer Wyatt, says she dropped Beth off in Centralia, Illinois, near the Amtrak station. Not to take a train, either, according to Jenn on June 10, 2010, when she called me.

This is "just" a missing person case, according to the initial story from the Woodstock (Ill.) Police Department. That classification has never changed. Not one person has been named a person-of-interest or a suspect in Beth's disappearance.

The police have said that her phone and credit cards have not been used since she disappeared. But a rumor persists that Beth's cell phone "pinged" in McHenry County late on Sunday, May 23, 2010. And another rumor persists the McHenry law office of her husband, Scott Bentley, where Beth was office manager and legal secretary, was broken into and computer files removed that night. Is it a coincidence that both of these rumors are founded in Sunday night? The McHenry Police Department responds to a FOIA request that it has no report of a break-in at Scott's office. Did one of Beth's older sons really sleep at the office for a few nights, in case the burglar returned?

Police have never released information about telephone and credit card usage on that week-end immediately prior to her disappearance. If her disappearance is marked from the last time that she was reportedly seen by friend Jennifer, then Beth was last seen between 5:30-6:00PM on Sunday, May 23, 2010, in Centralia.

Has a critical analysis been made of her cell phone records for the weeks before and her credit card usage in Mount Vernon before and on that week-end?

If this is really "just" a missing person case, why is it that no details have been released?

Last summer I contemplated setting up a command center in a storefront on the Woodstock Square. When no interest or support surfaced, I put the idea on the shelf. After all, I didn't even know her. But plenty of people around here did know her.

When is the last time you saw a Missing Person poster for Beth or heard anyone ask if there was anything new in her case?