Sunday, October 23, 2011

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.

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