Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sheriff forms "posse"

On Monday, August 24, Cal Skinner wrote about formation of a posse by McHenry County Sheriff Keith Nygren, featuring license plate brackets, window decals and lapel pins, which will identify contributors for his political campaign as members of his "posse." Read the article at Scroll down to Monday's article and graphics.

A good idea? Not hardly. And here's why.

Out in the wild, wild west a posse was a band of deputized citizens and/or deputies holding valid law enforcement powers. Sometimes, townsfolk were deputized for isolated purposes, such as hunting down a horse thief and searching for a missing person.

In other areas, posses were formal components of a sheriff's department, such as the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Posse, in Littleton, Colorado. Volunteer deputies in the Posse were trained and commissioned, and they held full-time commissions and concealed weapons permits. They were on-duty 24/7, just like the full-time, paid deputies. The only difference between the volunteers and the full-timers was the color of their uniform trousers and the lack of a paycheck every month.

Letting a person identify himself as a member of a sheriff's posse, based solely on a financial contribution to a sheriff's political campaign, is a terrible idea that could quite likely lead to abuse by someone with a license plate bracket or lapel pin. I can just hear it now: "I'm part of Sheriff Nygren's posse. Pull over, bud!"

This idea should be scrapped immediately. If it's not, then State law enforcement personnel should investigate the establishment of such a posse.

OK, so this is mostly a "city" area and not the wild, wild west. Maybe that explains the unwise decision. Just a lack of knowledge about the history of sheriffs' departments. Is that it?

Jailer pleads not guilty

The Northwest Herald reports that McHenry County Sheriff's Department corrections officer Elias Dario Fortoso, 29, pled not guilty yesterday to charges filed against him for inappropriate physical contact with inmates.

Previous reports, as I recall, indicated inappropriate contact with only one inmate, and yesterday's article reports that Fortoso allegedly had previously asked an inmate to show him her breasts. Is a different inmate involved?

The article also reports that Fortoso is on paid administrative leave.

So, the big question is, why is he on paid leave? Is not this kind of contact between a person in authority and an inmate a very serious violation of rules of conduct? Why isn't he on unpaid administrative leave?

There is a nagging thought running around in the back of my head that a jail setting is a perfect place for a set-up. If a jailer was enforcing rules that were unpopular with an inmate, a good "payback" would be to file a complaint against the jailer.

So, maybe there is a reasonable doubt on the part of the sheriff's department about the complaint against Fortoso. Is that the reason for paid administrative leave? Did the department have to file the charges because an inmate complained, but it expects the jailer to be found not guilty, once the matter finally gets to trial?

If he is found not guilty, will he return to his job?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Facing Foreclosure?

Rep. Mike Tryon sent out an e-newsletter today to inform constituents of the Mortgage Relief Project and his efforts to bring it to McHenry County.

On September 10 from 4 to 7 p.m., the Mortgage Relief Project will be offered at McHenry County College, Building B, 8900 U.S. Route 14 in Crystal Lake.

According to his newsletter, "The Mortgage Relief Project, administered through the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) and the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA), offers homeowners assistance to rework their mortgage. According to the Homeowner Protection Act which was enacted this spring, homeowners who are late on their mortgage payments can obtain a 90-day grace period by entering housing counseling.

"The Mortgage Relief Project offers free workshops with useful information about mortgage refinancing, foreclosure prevention, legal rights, credit counseling and avoiding scam artists. Homeowners will have the opportunity to take advantage of one-on-one housing counseling with HUD-certified counselors and are encouraged to bring their most recent mortgage documents including bills, statements and notices, as well as their state ID or drivers’ licenses."

In his newsletter he wrote that he is "... committed to initiatives that reduce property taxes and create a fair process for determining home assessments." Good luck with that one, Mike.

You can meet Mike at the Mortgage Relief Project on September 10 from 4 to 7 p.m. at McHenry County College. For more information, please contact the IDFPR toll-free hotline at (800) 532-8785 or call his office at (815) 459-6453.

Why campaign expenses in Florida?

On August 20th I wrote and questioned why Keith Nygren would be holding a $40/plate fundraiser, when he already had $122,000 in his campaign warchest.

Cal Skinner explains the drain on the warchest in the first six months of 2009 in today's article on Cal's blog is worth daily reading!

Heretofore, I have refrained from using the term "cell phone sheriff" for Keith Nygren but, after looking at the listed expenses and seeing so many Florida charges at different times, I now wonder, as others apparently have for some time, how he can spend so much time in Florida and still run the McHenry County Sheriff's Department.

Just what "campaign" is Nygren running in Florida that he would expend campaign funds in this manner, as quoted in Cal's article:

1/13, 3/12 and 5/6 campaign gifts, Harry & David, Estero, Fla. $365.68
1/13 and 4/3 campaign meal, Cape Coral, Fla. $176.96
1/13 and 4/3 campaign beverages, Fort Myers, Fla. $496.41
3/12 campaign meal, Bonita Springs, Fla. $380.67
4/2 donation to Duke University. At Cape Coral, Fla. $250.00
4/3 campaign meal, Fort Myers, Fla. $272.45
4/22 campaign gifts, Mt. Pleasant, S.C. $172.50
5/6 campaign meal, Fort Myers, Fla. $562.86

Assuming he was present at each of the "campaign meals", then he was in Florida in January, March, April and May.

And AT&T cell phone bill, $523.57 [Correction 8/26/09. This is the total of six months' cell phone bills, not each month.] Is the campaign cell phone used only for the campaign, or is this phone used for "running" the Sheriff's Department from Florida?

Several local charges were made on the same date as charges in Florida, including large liquor purchases on 1/13 at Armanetti's in Woodstock for $217.50 and on the same date at Cardinal Wines & Liquors for $254.25. Note the substantial expenditures in Florida on the same date.

It surely would be interesting to see itemized receipts for those meals and liquor purchases, revealing the names of the diners present and the campaign purpose of these expenses.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Mental Health First Aid Training

Press Release – August 24, 2009
For information contact: Wendy Neuman, program monitor and training assistant, at 815-455-2828, c/o McHenry County Mental Health Board, 620 Dakota Street, Crystal Lake, IL 60012.

Mental Health Board offers free Mental Health First Aid Training

On September 28 and 29 the McHenry County Mental Health Board (MHB) is offering a special Mental Health First Aid Training class for the faith-based communities of McHenry County. The program is designed to increase mental health literacy and teach skills that will facilitate non mental health professionals to help individuals who are developing a mental health problem or are experiencing a mental health crisis.

Comparable to First Aid for physical problems, Mental Health First Aid is a 12 hour public education program designed for community groups, law enforcement and other emergency responders, school staff, businesses, and the general public so they can identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illness.

“Training for Mental Health First Aid teaches important skills and also helps in reducing the stigma associated with mental illness,” said Wendy Neuman, MHB program monitor and training assistant. “A general lack of knowledge about mental health problems adds to the stigma that may prevent people from seeking help, and it prevents people from providing support.”

Mental health problems are very common, with the most common being depression, anxiety disorders, and psychotic disorders. Frequently substance abuse is a co-occurring problem. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one of every four adults is affected by a diagnosable mental illness in any given year.

“Education reduces people’s fear of the unknown,” said Neuman. “It helps reduce the stigma that is reinforced in films and stories, and sometimes by the media.”

The mental health problems discussed include depression, anxiety, and psychotic disorders. Participants will learn about the symptoms, possible risk factors, and where and how to get help.

For information about the class targeted for faith-based communities, to arrange a class designed for another group, or for general information, contact Wendy Neuman at 815-455-2828.

WPD Suspension Policy - WRONG!

The policy of the Woodstock Police Department to stretch out unpaid suspensions and allow an officer to continue to work is a terrible policy.

The recent unpaid, 30-day suspension of Ofc. Mitchell J. Falat is a clear example of this Department's erroneous policy. On Wednesday of last week, the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners suspended Falat for 30-days, unpaid.

And the very next day, Thursday, he was working! On the day after the Board accepted an Agreed Disciplinary Order negotiated by the officer's attorney with the police chief, Robert Lowen, Falat was working, not beginning to serve his 30-day unpaid suspension.

This decision, uncommunicated to the parties who filed complaints farther back than February, 2009, demonstrates that the City of Woodstock cares little about imposing a serious and strict penalty on a police officer who violates a direct order from the chief of police.

What message does this send?

To officers, it sends a message that you can thumb your nose at the chief, get an attorney, work a "deal" and keep right on working.

To residents, it sends a message that you can't really count on your City government, even the civilian, Mayor-appointed, Board of Fire and Police Commissioners, and you definitely cannot count on the command personnel at the police department.

The officer was ordered in February to stay away from a certain married woman in Woodstock. He didn't. The family continued to complain to the police department. Why didn't the police department act sooner? Why was it necessary for the family to go to a city councilman and to the City Manager? And why didn't other, fellow officers who knew what was going on tell Falat to knock it off?

And now the officer will get to drag out his suspension, continue working, continue earning his income and occasionally take a day off without pay. Where is the harsh penalty that should correct his behavior and be a clear message to all (other officers, residents, City employees) that such behavior will not be condoned in Woodstock?

Why should the Police Department get to avoid the consequences of his behavior? Supposedly, allowing him to continue to work means less disruption to the duty roster. Well, SO WHAT?

If command personnel fail to halt serious errors in behavior of an officer and the duty roster suffers, they get to bear the responsibility. Maybe the City Council will begin paying closer attention to labor costs and start asking more questions about reasons!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Pedestrians/joggers in the streets

Seventy-three readers participated in the survey on the question, "Should WPD ticket pedestrians & joggers in roadways illegally?" OK, so this was a trick question.

Yes 41 (56%)
No 32 (44)

The trick word there was "illegally". Many Woodstock joggers and pedestrians run or walk in the street in a manner that is clearly illegal; e.g., when there is a sidewalk, the pedestrian (or jogger) is to be on the sidewalk, not in the street.

How many times have you had to slow, then pull around, a pedestrian or jogger in the street where there was an adjacent sidewalk?

Some of our young "gangstas" walk in the street, four-five abreast and in the direction of traffic flow, as if they own the street. You'll recognize them - baggy clothes, pants hanging down below their hips, caps on sideways, dark clothing (even at night).

If police even just made a "contact" with them, ID'ed them, explained that they are to walk (or run) out of the street, that might save an accident, injury or even a fatality.

Thanks to the 73 who participated!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Injustice of the Gauger Verdict

Where is the editorial outcry of the county's only daily newspaper over the verdict in the Gauger lawsuit against the McHenry County Sheriff's Department?

What went wrong in the trial? Anything?

While the plaintiff had an incredibly high burden to meet, is there a question - really - in anyone's mind that Gary Gauger was treated unfairly by the investigators? There certainly is none in my mind.

Was the request/demand for $20,000,000 too high? Did the jury that was empaneled not have the ability to grasp the damage done to a person so accused? Would they have decided in Gary's favor, had the money demand been lower?

Doesn't any in the county, except for those posting on the Northwest Herald website, care about the time and life energy stolen from Gary Gauger?

If you haven't read In Spite of the System, pick up a copy today from Read Between the Lynes or order it on Read it; highlight it; write down the circumstances that you find objectionable.

Then get active in our County to make certain that those circumstances (interrogation techniques) are never repeated! The verdict in last week's trial is no way condones or excuses the actions of the then-detectives for their lies and misdirections to get a so-called "confession".

And, while you are at it, review your Miranda Rights. Search online for them. Print them out. Above all, remember the first right: "You have the right to remain silent."

And the second: "Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law."

Then re-read the first right. And remember it!

Friday, August 21, 2009

SAO wins without strong DUI evidence

AUGUST 20, 2009
McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office Wins Difficult DUI Case


McHenry County State’s Attorney, Louis A. Bianchi, is pleased to announce a recent victory on a DUI offender.

Assistant State’s Attorney’s Robert Malen and Patrick Kenneally won a DUI jury trial in the matter of People v. Dominique Miller.
This was a challenging case for several reasons. When officers arrived at the scene the defendant was not in her vehicle and was later found walking near the area; there were no field sobriety tests conducted due to the defendant’s hip injury; and the defendant submitted to a breath test which resulted in a BAC below the legal limit. After the trial started, the breath operator informed prosecutors that he was not certified to operate the breath machine at the time of the test. As a result, the breathalyzer results were excluded. Despite this fact, prosecutors continued with the trial even though it seemed almost impossible to win. They fought hard, gave passionate closing arguments and were victorious. We are once again proud of our attorneys’ performances and successes.


Anyone who thinks that court is not a win/lose situation should read this press release carefully. Did the police and the SAO really have a case?

According to the word of this press release, maybe they didn't. 1) No roadside sobriety test; 2) BAC was below 0.08%; 3) the breath operator (who was he???) was not certified; 4) breathalyzer results were not admissible.

But good lawyering and persuasive arguments "won" over the jury. Wish I'd been there. Would the result have been different in a bench trial?

What police agency was involved? Who was the defense attorney? How many other breathalyzer tests were conducted by the uncertified breath operator? Were other convictions gained (or pleas negotiated) that involved the same breath operator while uncertified?

Deputy had Dalby flash drive

The transcript of the June 1, 2009 sentencing hearing of Amy Dalby by Judge Joseph Condon in People v. Amy L. Dalby makes for some very interesting reading. She had already pled guilty to "computer tampering" and was in court for sentencing.

On Page 16 of the transcript Special Prosecutor David O'Connor, in addressing the Court, said, "It was at this meeting that the Defendant gave an off-duty Sheriff's deputy, who was working on behalf of the political campaign, the flash drive that contained all the data that was removed from the McHenry State's Attorney's office." And O'Connor said, "...the flash drive that the Defendant gave the off-duty Sheriff's Deputy that contained all the State's Attorney computer data has now according to that off-duty Sheriff's Deputy has (sic) allegedly been lost."

So, the unnamed deputy (weren't they nice to omit his or her name?) came into possession of information stolen from the State's Attorney's office in October 2007 at that DeKalb meeting (Dalby was a student at NIU) and he (or she) didn't turn it in?

The hearing transcript refers to 5,000 pages of data (Page 17) taken from the State's Attorney's office on that flash drive. If that deputy was working on the political campaign, it seems to me that he would have known or suspected what the flash drive contained, when it was given to him.

What kind of law enforcement do we have in McHenry County? Even the newest, youngest deputy ought to understand that possession of stolen information is a crime and that it is his obligation to turn over evidence in a crime that "happens" to come into his possession.

But wait! There was at least one more deputy involved. On Page 17 of the transcript, O'Connor continues, "To underscore that this has a lot more to do with politics rather than corruption was at least two off-duty sheriff deputies working on behalf of the campaign played the role at various times in transferring this computer data to others for campaign related purposes."

The claim throughout the hearing by Dalby's defense was that she did not know she was committing a crime by taking data off an office computer. O'Connor called that "disingenuous."

O'Connor was kind in court. Any third grader knows that you don't take things that don't belong to you.

Dalby got off easy when Judge Condon sentenced her to court supervision until June 1, 2010, a $400 fine and court costs. No community service. No other conditions. She doesn't even have to go back to court, if she is in compliance.

In compliance with what? Is there an "understanding" that compliance means staying out of trouble? What kind of "trouble"? But it wasn't defined by the court, as it often is. So it looks like all she has to do is pay her fine and court costs and keep breathing until June 1.

Will the two off-duty sheriff's deputies be identified? Will they be charged with possession of stolen material? Or will all this just fall off the radar screen?

Falat Deal - there's more

This morning's Northwest Herald reports another part of the "deal" between the Woodstock Police Chief and Ofc. Mitch Falat, who was suspended for 30 (non-continuous!) days without pay on Wednesday, August 19.

An additional provision of the Agreed Disciplinary Order, not disclosed publicly at the Special Meeting of the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners, is that Ofc. Falat is to have no intentional contact with City Councilman (and Chief of the Woodstock Fire Rescue District) Ralph Webster.

The newspaper reports that the "Woodstock family" had taken their "concerns" to Councilman Webster.

Why does a family find it necessary to take "concerns" to a City Councilman? One must assume that they had reported their "concerns" to the chief of the Woodstock Police Department. Did they feel that nothing was happening? Or that anything that was happening, was not happening quickly enough?

Falat was disciplined for violating a February 19 order from the chief to have no contact with the Woodstock woman. Therefore, the complaint must have been registered with the police department prior to February. How long before February was their complaint filed?

If he did continue to have contact with the woman, in violation of the February 19 order, what subsequent complaints or reports did the family make to the police department, and why did it take until August 19 for the disciplinary hearing before the Board?

I had a conversation with this family on July 2, and that followed their meeting with the City Manager. Putting pieces of the puzzle together, then it seems to me that the family went to Councilman Webster in June. February-to-June is a long time for lack of decisive action by command personnel at the police department.

And from July 2 - August 19 is a long time to take action to discipline extraordinary behavior or actions against a town resident.

What else is in the Agreed Disciplinary Order? Is there more that has not been revealed? Why was there even any "negotiation" to it? The chief has the authority to initiate discipline. He could have placed the officer on immediate paid leave and requested a Board meeting, which would have been held no sooner than two days later.

Instead, this family had to endure months continued unwanted and improper attention from the officer. Apparently, discipline resulted only after the family appealed to a City Councilman and the City Manager became involved.

By these delays, the City has very likely allowed itself to be exposed to financial liability. The first responsibility is to its own residents, not to its employees. It did not meet its first responsibility in this case.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

30-day suspension - not continuous!

Yesterday I wrote about the 30-day unpaid suspension imposed on Ofc. Mitch Falat of the Woodstock Police Department for violation of a department order by Chief Robert Lowen to stay away from a certain Woodstock woman.

Today I learned that Ofc. Falat is on duty, as he was during the period of investigation that preceded yesterday's Special Meeting of the Woodstock Board of Fire and Police Commissioners.
Upon telephoning Chief Lowen of the Woodstock Police Department, I learned that his unpaid suspension is not 30 continuous days.

No wonder that yesterday's Board meeting was cut and dried. All the Board did was accept the negotiated deal between Ofc. Falat, his attorney and the Police Department. There was no discussion. No witnesses were called. The woman involved and her husband were not called to testify, so that the Board could hear all the details that led up to the "deal." The meeting was over in minutes, without reading or verbal discussion of the deal between the police department and Ofc. Falat.

The Board did not reveal the terms of the Agreed Disciplinary Order during the very brief meeting. They had been given copies of the disciplinary order by the chief and, once in session, they accepted it as offered.

Where is the representation of the victim in this whole matter? Is the City really looking out for the resident?

I didn't ask the chief why the 30 days were not continuous. But something about that arrangement really stinks. If an officer is told by the chief to stay away from a married woman in his community and he doesn't, the discipline needed to be swift and certain. And enough of a kick in the butt that he got the message.

The Board of Fire and Police Commissioners is supposed to serve as a Board of the City of Woodstock that is independent of the Police Department. That's why, I guess, they now, finally, meet at City Hall and not at the police department. But maybe it's time now for a complete turn-over in the Board, which is appointed by the Mayor, with the consent of the Council.

The Mayor, City Manager and members of the City Council ought to be hopping mad at this most recent deal and the way it was handled. Transparency in government has gone out the window. The proper action at the Special Meeting would have been for the charges to be submitted to the Board and the disciplinary agreement read aloud and submitted to the Board, after which they could have voted on it.

There will be more to this story.

Firearms Refresher Course

Received an email today containing these wisdoms. I'm not sure who assembled them, but they are good ones.

1. "Those who hammer their guns into plows will plow for those who do not." ~Thomas Jefferson
2. Those who trade liberty for security have neither. ~John Adams
3. Free men do not ask permission to bear arms.
4.. An armed man is a citizen. An unarmed man is a subject.
5. Only a government that is afraid of its citizens tries to control them.
6. Gun control is not about guns; it's about control.
7. You only have the rights you are willing to fight for.
8. Know guns, know peace, know safety. No guns, no peace, no safety.
9. You don't shoot to kill; you shoot to stay alive.
10. Assault is a behavior, not a device.
11. 64,999,987 firearms owners killed no one yesterday.
12. The United States Constitution (c) 1791. All Rights Reserved
13. The Second Amendment is in place in case the politicians ignore the others.
14. What part of 'shall not be infringed' do you NOT understand?
15. Guns have only two enemies; rust and politicians.
16. When you remove the people's right to bear arms, you create slaves.
17. The American Revolution would never have happened with gun control.

Anonymity online - not so

A model in New York was a target of a blogger who thought her identity was secure behind a Google account, and she learned otherwise from a Manhattan judge. The judge ordered Google to identify the blogger, her email address and her computer's I.P. address.

This case can serve as a warning to all who attempt to create anonymous blogs and also to those who post nastygrams in the form of ugly, profane and libelous comments.

According to the article, the model is planning to file a defamation suit against the blogger.

As one local blogger wrote recently, "If you write it....SIGN IT!"

Incumbent has $100,000+ in warchest

Cal Skinner's McHenry County Blog ( reports that incumbent Republican Sheriff Nygren has $122,712.48 in his campaign fund as of June 30, 2009.

Why would a local politician for a County office have so much money on hand? And why is he holding a $40/plate fundraiser on September 10 to raise even more money?

What happens to money in a campaign fund when the officeholder stops playing the political game and decides to retire? For good, I mean. Does he get to keep the money to play with as he sees fit? Does it become taxable money (income) as he spends it on non-political, personal items?

Maybe a politician should be prohibited from amassing a warchest well in excess of reasonable expenses for a current election and be allowed only to accumulate funds until all election expenses have been paid. At a certain date after an election and payment of expenses, maybe money should be returned to contributors on a pro-rata basis.

What are your thoughts about the "relief and retirement account" called a campaign fund?

Why do people continue to kick in more money when there is already a sizable pot of gold available for advertising and signs?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Seipler - Republican candidate for Sheriff

Cal Skinner's McHenry County Blog ( broke the story earlier this evening that Zane Seipler, of Woodstock, has announced his candidacy for Sheriff of McHenry County. Zane will be a candidate in the Republican primary on February 2, 2009.

Zane has a strong record of opposing "business as usual" at the McHenry County Sheriff's Department. Since joining the Department he has observed many questionable practices and has not been quiet about them.

Zane's service as a deputy sheriff ended last October, when his termination was approved at a meeting of the McHenry County Sheriff's Merit Commission, which itself was an illegal meeting under the Illinois Open Meetings Act. He has a legal action underway to regain his job, and he expects the termination to be overturned.

For information about Zane's campaign, check out and "Supporters of Zane Seipler for McHenry County Sheriff" on Facebook. Zane can be reached by telephone at (847) 561-1180 and by email at

Good luck, Zane!

SAO: New special prosecution gang unit

AUGUST 19, 2009


McHenry County State’s Attorney Louis A. Bianchi announces the implementation of a Gang Prosecutions Unit effective August 24, 2009, which reflects the office’s commitment to deter gang activity through tough prosecution efforts.

Assistant State’s Attorney Donna Kelly is assigned to Special Prosecutions and will lead the Gang Prosecutions Unit. Kelly began her career as an Assistant Public Defender assigned to the Felony and Juvenile Divisions in Kane County. She then served as an Assistant Appellate Defender in the Office of the State Appellate Defender, Third District, where she argued dozens of cases before the Appellate Court, and two cases before the Illinois Supreme Court. As a member of the Capital Litigation Trial Bar, Kelly is certified by the Illinois Supreme Court to prosecute death penalty cases as lead counsel. In 2006, Kelly prosecuted Gregorio Pena and Antonio Figueroa, two members of the Latin King Street Gang, for their involvement in a violent beating of a former gang member outside of a tavern in Harvard. Both men were found guilty and sentenced to the penitentiary. In 2008, Kelly and the Chief of the Criminal Division, Nichole Owens, prosecuted Justin Knapp, a Nortenos 14 Street Gang member, for the gang-related stabbing of a young man affiliated with the Latin Kings street gang in a Woodstock parking lot. Knapp was found guilty of attempt first degree murder and sentenced to 16 years in the penitentiary.

Assistant State’s Attorney Jeff Bora will also be assigned to the Gang Prosecutions Unit. He has been employed as a prosecutor with the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office since 2007 where he has tried a total of 23 trials, including the offenses of felony criminal sexual abuse, unlawful delivery of a controlled substance, assault and battery, DUI, and resisting a peace officer. Bora is currently assigned to the Felony Review Division where he works closely with law enforcement on felony criminal investigations. He is also assigned to the State’s Attorney’s Office White Collar Crime Division.

Assistant State’s Attorneys Kelly and Bora will train Assistant State’s Attorneys on qualifying law enforcement officers as gang experts; transferring juveniles affiliated with gangs to adult court; imposing conditions of bond at arraignment (such as prohibitions on contact with other gang members and wearing of gang colors); and presenting gang affiliations as aggravating factors at sentencing hearings.

Kelly and Bora will also provide training to law enforcement on investigating gang members; communicate monthly with a gang representative from each jurisdiction; and develop a gang database which will include photographs of gang members, gang tattoos, and will also document gang hang outs as well as gang contacts.

Kelly and Bora will handle gang-related crimes and/or review and monitor their dispositions and will ensure that the prosecutor who is assigned the case is familiar with the gang affiliation and history of each defendant.

Kelly and Bora will also educate the community about gangs within McHenry County, and will visit schools to educate and dissuade students from becoming involved with gangs.
The formation of the Gang Prosecutions Unit will facilitate an aggressive stance against gang crime in McHenry County. The unit will take a hard-line approach against active gang members by coordinating efforts with law enforcement and aggressively prosecuting gang crime.

Woodstock officer suspended for 30 days

The Woodstock Board of Fire and Police Commissioners met this afternoon at 5:00PM at City Hall to accept a deal worked out between Woodstock Police Chief Robert Lowen and Officer Mitchell J. Falat that imposes a 30-day unpaid suspension on Officer Falat.

Neither Ofc. Falat nor his attorney appeared today.

The Agreed Disciplinary Order, already signed by Ofc. Falat, was presented to the Board, and it voted to accept it without discussion and without the need to go into executive session. The chief's charge against Ofc. Falat was violation of a no-contact order issued to Ofc. Falat on February 19. Ofc. Falat was to have no contact with a married, female resident in Woodstock.

In response to questions after the meeting whether the Board was aware of a Temporary Order of Protection obtained by Ofc. Falat on June 9 against that female, in which he identified the dating relationship as "boyfriend/girlfriend", and whether the police department had investigated the truthfulness of the statements made in the request for the OP, City Attorney Rich Flood responded that the OP had been investigated.

Merryman Pit - go or no go

Judge McIntyre was to rule this morning on the new gravel pit desired by Merryman that is just west of Woodstock off South Street.

You can follow the action at

Thanks to Ben for the alert. I just wasn't able to be there at 9:00AM for the official decision. Expect to read a follow-up in the Northwest Herald and on the website above.

The McHenry County Zoning Board of Appeals' unanimous decision against the pit and the McHenry County Board's majority decision against it, Merryman Aggregate, LLC and its partners sued for a permit to commence operations.

It's not too late to contribute to the expenses of stopping this pit. See donation information on their website.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Cop Sought Order of Protection

The following details were taken from public records at the McHenry County Government Center.

A Woodstock police officer sought, and was granted, an Emergency Order of Protection (OP) on June 9, 2009, against a Woodstock woman. In his petition he identified the relationship with the woman as "boyfriend/girlfriend" and hand-wrote an extensive summary of personal problems which led to the request for the OP.

In the petition he listed a confrontation that had occurred between the woman's husband and him. The officer didn't request the OP against the woman's husband, but against her. He also checked the boxes that the woman "has threatened to or is likely to use firearms illegally against me". And that she possessed a firearm.

In his petition the officer stated that he had discussed the problems with his chief and the chief had suggested the OP.

A hearing was scheduled for June 19, and the woman was in court for the hearing. The officer? He didn't show up for the hearing, and a Motion to Vacate the OP was granted. A hearing was set for June 23 at 9:00AM.

The June 23 court date arrived, and the officer did not show up in court. The cause was dismissed for want of prosecution.

* * * * * *

Now, here's the question. When an Order of Protection is sought, the person seeking it must make a sworn statement as to the circumstances leading to the request. Based on those statements a judge makes a decision whether to issue the OP.

What opinion will you form after realizing that the officer did not show up in court twice to re-state and explain the sworn accusations in the Order of Protection?

Should the judge have required his appearance?

ATM skimmers in Park Ridge

A reader called my attention to and information about a July ATM skimming in Park Ridge, Ill. If you can't get to the information via this link,, go to and search for "Park Ridge."

Remember how safe it used to be to go to an ATM, pop in your card, grab your cash, and go?

Now, someone else may grab your cash and go. That particular customer was lucky; the bank reimbursed her for her loss.

If you have questions about the safety of the ATMs you use, talk to your own bank. Find out in advance about reimbursement policies. They'll have them. The policy might be "We don't." Find out ahead of time.

There is also good information there about cars sold by Enterprise Rent-A-Car system. Some 2006-08 Chevrolets Impalas were purchased without airbags, to save $175/car. Airbags were not installed when the cars were sold, and the buyers were not informed that the vehicles had no airbags. How would you like to be driving around in a car with no airbag?

Next time you rent from Enterprise, ask them if the airbag works. Note the response on the contract before the pages are separated.

Many thanks to the reader who provided the alert about that good website.

Another driver learns about BAC

Press Release from the Office of the McHenry County State's Attorney on August 18, 2009:


McHenry County State’s Attorney, Louis A. Bianchi, is pleased to announce that Assistant State’s Attorneys Amanda Fisher and Robert Malen recently won a jury trial in the matter of People v. Robert Carlson. Carlson was charged with driving with a BAC over .08. Mr. Carlson was involved in a single car crash and transported to the hospital. During the course of the medical treatment his blood draw was .10. There were several evidentiary challenges that existed with this case: the blood draw timeline was in dispute and there were no field sobriety tests done. Also, the witnesses who had contact with the defendant, except for the arresting officer, saw no signs of impairment. The defendant will be sentenced September 18, 2009.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Please sign this e-Petition - NOEWAIT


(Please excuse all the capital letters. That's how I got it.)

Illinois has one of the long wait lists for services to those with Developmental Disabilities in the United States. Yet, we have only 257 folks in Illinois who have signed the NOEWAIT petition to End the Wait List. In comparison, the state of Florida has over 2,500 folks who have signed the petition, and Colorado has over 1,000!

We need to have 10,000 signatures by September 30, 2009. Right now, we have 7,500. Can you help us out?

1. Do you know why Illinois has had such a small response? How can we increase that response? Please write us at with suggestions.
2. Could you help by sending the following message to all of the listservs, Arc's, organizations, friends and neighbors you know in Illinois? Please include businesses that deliver services, the Texas state departments of disabilities - anything you might think of.


Over 300,000 individuals with disabilities are on years-long waiting lists for vital services.


The National Organization to End the Waitlist (NOEWAIT) has a petition directed to the President and Members of Congress: "Health Care Reform Must Eliminate Waitlists and Allow for the Continuation/Portability of Services Across State Lines"

Please email to keep updated as to the progress of this petition. Circulate this in any way you can. Copy it and take it to conferences and meetings.

You can easily forward this article by clicking on the small envelope at the end of the article. Enter the email addresses to which you would like to forward it.

New signs remember Chris Foat

Two new signs have been erected in Woodstock on Clay Street north of Church Street. The signs, on opposite sides of Clay Street at Newell Street, warn drivers not to drink and drive and were placed in memory of Christopher A. Foat.
Foat, 23, died early on December 2, 2007, when he was struck from behind by a pick-up truck with a snowplow. Foat and friends had been on the Square and were walking home in the roadway "with" traffic because sidewalks were icy.
The 38-year-old driver of the pick-up truck was convicted of two counts of aggravated driving under the influence in February 2009 and was sentenced to ten years in prison. The driver reportedly had been in the U.S. illegally for 20 years and, when he is released from prison, he will be deported from the United States.

Woodstock BOFPC to meet Wed.

A Special Meeting of the Woodstock Board of Fire and Police Commissioners (BOFPC) has been announced for Wednesday, August 19, 2009, 5:00PM in City Council chambers at the Woodstock City Hall.

Such meetings must be announced at least 48 hours in advance.

An Executive Session is listed as Item III. Closed sessions are permitted by law to be held to discuss the "appointment, employment, compensation, discipline, performance or dismissal of specific employees of the public body, including hearing testimony on a complaint lodged against an employee to determine its validity."

The Board cannot make decisions in private. In private it can discuss and consider only. Any decision must be made by individual vote after the Board returns to open session, and the vote must be upon proper motion by a member of that Board.

The City announced the July 21, 2009, on City Hall stationery, which was proper because the Board is a public body of the City and not of the Police Department; however, the announcement of this meeting was made on "Police Department" stationery. Why did announcements revert to P.D. stationery?

For the public to have strong confidence in its police department, the Department must be on the side of the citizens. If a Department ever receives a complaint from a citizen about one of its officers, it must investigate it immediately, thoroughly and completely. The citizens of a community (for example, Woodstock) must be able to rely on its police chief and its City officials to be thorough and not to try to hush things up.

Should a citizen have a complaint against an officer, he or she must be able to trust that the complaint will be investigated and, if substantiated, followed quickly by appropriate disciplinary action. The City, as the employer, has the legal responsibility to halt anything improper that is going on between an employee and a member of the community.

What the member of the community must remember is that the employees and legal counsel for the City work for the City. And, while the City is the People, the actuality may be that City will "close ranks" and recognize a need to defend itself. This puts the City in a very delicate position where it cannot serve two masters.

Wednesday's BOFPC meeting should be more than "interesting."

Special Public Defender not notified of new client

This is a follow-up to the article on August 3, 2009, "What causes delays in court?" That article was about a woman who had cases in two courtrooms on the same morning and who experienced delays in finding her court-appointed attorney.

It turns out that the Special Public Defender who had been appointed for her didn't even know about her. Apparently, no one notified him that he had been appointed to represent this woman, and he didn't know about her court dates. No wonder there was a delay.

"Little' paperwork errors like this shouldn't occur, even in a busy office. There must be some system to assures the production and communication (mailing, e-mailing, faxing, etc.) of notices of appointment.

I had gone to court with her that day, because of the multitude of cases that have been filed against her by an angry neighbor. (This will be another story.) It's hard to be in two courtrooms at the same time. Since it is a really bad idea not to be in court when your case is called, I suggested she identify herself to the bailiff before court started and ask how to be in two places at once.

The bailiff in the first courtroom told her that her lawyer, whom she named, was not in the courtroom. The bailiff told her to go to the other courtroom.

She did and, when her case was called, she indicated her lawyer was not there and the judge told her to sit down and wait.

Later, during a break, I went back to the first courtroom and reported she was still waiting for her lawyer. The bailiff said that, if the second judge told her to wait, then she should wait.

Who knows? Maybe she'd still be waiting there, if we hadn't continued to ask where her lawyer was!

How many people don't know what to do or what questions even to ask???

More attention by the bailiffs would have resulted in less delay. Passing the buck isn't good enough. Why the bailiff in the first courtroom didn't become pro-active when no lawyer appeared for her, even though the bailiff knew the lawyer who was to represent her, is anyone's question. (Hello? Is there a problem building here?)

When you have a public defender or any lawyer, you should not wait for the lawyer to contact you. Make the call; establish the contact. If you don't get a prompt return call, keep calling. Especially when you have cases in two courtrooms on the same day, establish who does what so that you don't end up in hot water with the judge. Remember: the warrant for Failure to Appear will be issued to you, not to your lawyer.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Nightmare at Crystal Lake P.D.

An effort to report an attempted armed robbery in Crystal Lake turned into a nightmare Sunday evening for a young couple.

Early in the evening Erik Strickland, 29, bummed a ride with strangers to a store to buy cigarettes. Along the way the man in the right-front seat announced a robbery, but Erik was able to escape from the car and run.

After fleeing the robbery attempt, he ran many blocks to the location where his wife, Veronika Strickland, 19, was. Four squad cars showed up. Erik was presenting some health issues due to hypoglycemia, and the paramedics were called.
When Veronika tried to approach her husband, she was not allowed to do so. Veronika was searched, even though she had nothing to do with the incident. Even though a female officer was on the scene, a male officer patted her down, pressing items in her jeans pocket and feeling the rear pockets (her buttocks). She asked for a female officer to do the search and was denied. When the female officer approached, she told Veronika that male officers are permitted to pat down females.
She wasn't a suspect; why was she even searched? An officer said to her, "If you are innocent, what are you worried about?" What she was trying to do was find out whether her husband was okay, and the police had apparently already criminalized her!
Erik, Veronika and I had gotten acquainted two weeks ago, following their contact with deputies of the McHenry County Sheriff's Department on June 17. On August 4th I published "How accurate should a report be?"
After the paramedics left, Erik was placed in a squad car, not in handcuffs, and transported to the Crystal Lake Police Department, and Veronika was driven there in a separate police vehicle.
At about 8:30PM Erik called me from the Crystal Lake Police Department. He told me that someone had tried to rob him and that the police had separated his wife and him and would not let them leave. He asked if I could come right over, and I agreed. I told him to ask if he was a suspect and, if he was, to clam up; also, to ask for the highest supervisor available. He said they were threatened to take his cell phone away from him.
While I was driving there, Erik called again. He told me that he wasn't a suspect, that they refused to call a higher supervisor, and again that they were about to take away his cell phone.
I arrived at Crystal Lake PD at 9:00PM and told the dispatcher, via the outside phone, that I wanted to speak with someone in charge. At 9:10PM Sgt. Hulata called me on my cell phone (rather than coming out to talk with me). I identified myself as a friend and a reporter. He refused to discuss the matter, which was not an incorrect response, but he also refused to contact his supervisor.
Erik called me again and told me that he had been told that, if he made a statement, then he could go. He told me that they paraded his wife in front of him and that she was crying very hard.
At 9:29PM I phoned the dispatcher again and requested that Deputy Chief Harris be notified. The dispatcher told me that D/C Harris works Monday-Friday. Of course, all commanders have portable police radios, home phones, cell phones and, probably, pagers. At 9:34PM Erik called me again and told me that Sgt. Hulata was going to let them leave. At 9:53PM Erik and Veronika walked out the front door of the police station.
Erik and Veronika that they were accused of being involved in illegal activities. Erik said he was told that his wife had said they were selling tickets at the train station and one of the officers surmised that tonight's "attempted robbery" was either a drug deal gone bad or that Erik was hallucinating.
Erik said that at one point one of the officers said to him, "I asked you a fucking question and you'll answer it!" He was told that if he refused to write out a statement or cooperate or if they invoked their rights, they'd press charges. Earlier in the evening Erik had told me by phone that the police were threatening to file charges for filing a false police report (n other words, that no attempted robbery had occurred) and for making false 9-1-1 calls.
Veronika said that male officers repeatedly came into her interview room, wanting to know if her husband was on drugs or if she were high.
Erik said he did write out a statement, because he was afraid that he was going to be jailed.
Is this how the criminal justice system works in Crystal Lake?

Chamber Building - Sell or Keep

I hadn't read the short article in this week's The Woodstock Independent (TWI), when I published the results of a recent survey of reader opinion about the consideration being given to peddling the building purchased in 1987 for the headquarters of the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce.

The TWI article (August 12, 2009) reports that current Chamber President Rebecca Stiemke has been contacted by one person who is interested in purchasing the Chamber's building, located at 136 Cass Street. Presumably, this would be the same person who got the ball rolling and whose "interest" resulted in the general membership call and meeting.

Somebody could pick up the building at "Fire Sale" pricing and walk away with a really sweet deal. Is the Chamber membership going to allow that to happen? Then Chamber then effectively becomes "homeless." This should never be allowed to happen.

What kind of disaster is looming for the Woodstock Chamber as a result of the extreme financial irresponsibility of previous Boards of Directors? Why didn't previous Boards inform the membership that they were fast going in the wrong direction on the building's mortgage? The original mortgage of $87,500, instead of going down since 1987, has grown to $188,000.

As a past member of four chambers and as a former employee of four chambers, all larger, I am appalled by the decisions and actions of the Boards.

Members of recent Boards had to be aware of the looming debt. Focus should have been on increasing membership and membership services and on reducing costs. They should haved insisted on results - Results - during the past six years. Apparently, the Boards did not require such business-like actions. Members have told me of their difficulty in learning the financial position of the chamber in recent years.

During the one very disappointing year of my own membership, I raised questions about membership services. I also questioned that the Executive Director could be appointed Secretary of the Chamber; it turned out that, legally, he could not. There was a minor pesky condition in the By-Laws that the Secretary had to be a business member.

And then I pointed out to the Board that the position of Treasurer could not, under the By-Laws, be held by Tim Clifton, Woodstock's City Manager. I had no quarrel with Tim over the duties of Treasurer that he performed. It was great that the City of Woodstock was willing to take on that role.

The only problem was that the By-Laws didn't allow it. So, no matter how fine a job Tim did being Treasurer, he wasn't eligible to be the Chamber's Treasurer.

Did he point out, year-after-year, the increasing peril of the Chamber's financial position? Why did the Boards bury it?

Letting 26 members decide the fate of the Chamber's building is the wrong decision. The Board should embark on a serious effort to keep its building AND on a program to get it paid off.

Nothing has been said yet about the Board's efforts to hire a new Executive Director, after the current employee leaves in two weeks. What's happening with that position?

The Woodstock Chamber has an incredible and qualified potential Executive Director right under its nose. If the Chamber is to be saved, they had better start thinking "outside the Square" and really fast.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Survey - text and drive

A recent survey asked readers to respond to the following question, “Do you text and drive?”

The results were:

All the time? 15 (21%)
Occasionally? 28 (38%)
Never? 30 (41%)

Of the 73 who voted (thanks, Readers!), 41% said they never do.

This leaves 59% who text all the time or at least occasionally.

So, as you drive, keep a careful eye on all that is happening around you, especially approaching you head-on or following you as you approach a traffic light or stop sign.

Learn about Illinois’ next “don’t text” law.

Survey - perjury, big deal or not?

Readers were recently asked, “How serious a crime is perjury?”

Big deal! 55 (82%)
No sweat. Everybody lies: 12 (18%)

Of the 67 responses, I was pleasantly surprised that 82% (55 of 67) considered perjury a “big deal.” I would have guessed that the result was going to be lower.

However, 18% don’t consider perjury a “big deal.”

Watch for news in the near future that involves perjury in Woodstock. Will authorities make a big deal out of it?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Survey - sell the Chamber HQ?

After the inexcusably low turn-out of Chamber members to vote on giving the Board of Directors the authority to not only investigate selling the Chamber headquarters, but also to sell it without further consulting the members, the following survey was posted here, “What should the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce do?”

Sell its headquarters? 25 (66%)
Commit to a turnaround? 13 (34%)

Of the 38 readers who responded, 66% said “Sell it” and 34% said “Commit to a turnaround.” In other words, readers felt 2:1 that the building ought to be sold.

But 34% is a strong showing and should give the Board pause. The Board should find additional ways to obtain valid membership opinion before it sells the building.

In my opinion, the gross mismanagement of the Chamber’s Boards over the past 15-20 years and the actions (or inactions) of the hired gun (Executive Director) should not be overlooked.

Now is the time for the entire business community to rally and scream, “Enough!”

What a jewel Woodstock is. And the apathy of the business community is appalling. It never should have let the Chamber’s Boards skate through the years and make it look like they were making ends meet by re-financing the mortgage six times. Rather than paying down the initial mortgage of $87,500, they increased it by $100,000!

Dumb. Really dumb!

Survey - smoking on the Square

In a recent survey of readers, this question was asked, “Should Woodstock ban smoking on City sidewalks on the Square?”

Of the 70 readers who responded, 57 (81%) said “No.”
The remaining 13 (19%) said “Yes.”

Well, folks, it is the way the majority wants it.

The right healthcare-for-all plan

Want to vote in an interesting poll, sponsored by Bill Scheurer, Green Party candidate for Melissa Bean's current seat in Congression?

Please vote in his “Congressional Healthcare For All” poll, and pass it on: (you must log into Facebook to vote)

“Should the American People be able to choose the same healthcare program as Congress gives to itself, the administration, and all other federal employees -- all of whom work for us?”

Whether we are “for” or “against” current healthcare reform proposals, we can all agree on this.

It sweeps away concerns about pre-existing conditions, benefits definitions, “donut holes” and everything else they leave us to struggle with while giving themselves the premier healthcare everyone deserves.

WPD seeks hit-and-run driver

About 10:00PM last Saturday a girl walking in Route 47 in Woodstock was reportedly hit by a large, white SUV that did not stop. An article in Thursday's Northwest Herald informed readers that the police are looking for a large, white SUV with right-front damage.

First of all, no one wants any pedestrian, child or adult, to be hit by a car. Having said that, look at the situation as it was described.

The girl, 13, and a friend were walking south in the roadway near Route 120 (McHenry Avenue). They were apparently south of McHenry Avenue, where there is no sidewalk. (If they were north of McHenry Avenue, there is a sidewalk.)

It was 10:00PM on a Saturday. That section of roadway is relatively dark without good artificial lighting.

The girl was hit by the right-front of the vehicle.

Why was she walking with traffic (in the direction of traffic), where she could not watch traffic approaching from behind?

Were the two kids walking side-by-side or single-file?

How were they dressed? Dark clothing? Lighter, reflective clothing?

Why weren't they walking on the grass or gravel?

Why hadn't they crossed to the east side of the roadway, where they could walk facing traffic?

Will those two kids be ticketed for pedestrian violations of the Illinois Vehicle Code?

Kids might be introduced to safe walking patterns, but early on they see disregard for pedestrian rules. Example: in front of Dean Street School, teachers, staff, parents and students regularly cross mid-block to the parking lot on the north side of Dean Street, not at the corner. And they do so with impunity. When kids in 1st and 2nd grade begin learning that traffic laws can be ignored, is it any wonder that they ignore them as they get older?

It's hard to believe that the driver didn't know that he had hit one of them. Was s/he intoxicated? Distracted? Scared to stop?

And what if s/he had stopped? Since the kids were walking in the roadway with traffic, would the driver merely have been identified for the police report and sent on his/her way, assuming nothing else was out of order? Of course, you are supposed to operate your vehicle under control, so that you avoid objects, animals and people who suddenly come into view.

The speed limit there changes from 30MPH to 35MPH in a left curve. A driver paying attention should have seen the pedestrians. Did they step more into the traffic lane to miss bushes or low branches?

All over Woodstock kids act like they own the roadway. A couple of weeks ago on southbound Clay one evening, there were 4-5 young teen-age boys walking side-by-side, fully in the traffic lane, strutting their "stuff" with their caps turned sideways "gang-style". Should a motorist have to drive on the wrong side of the road to pass them safely, if they refuse to move out of the lane?

How would the police respond to a driver reporting such a pedestrian violation? Should cops ticket such pedestrian violations? Maybe then they wouldn't have to investigate pedestrian-vehicle accidents.

WPD August Traffic Initiative - TWLTLs

Between now and the end of August, officers of the Woodstock P.D. will be targeting drivers who violate center-lane and median traffic laws.

These are my favorites, because some drivers use the center lane on Route 47 as a private passing lane.

Certain uses of the two-way left turn lane (TWLTL) are permitted. These lanes are identified by opposing turn arrows painted on the pavement and, in some places, by informational signs posted on the shoulder of the roadway.

For about six years I had been aware of tickets issued in Woodstock for TWLTL violations, and I talked to drivers who received tickets for turns that appeared to be legal under the Illinois Vehicle Code. And then one day I got stopped for making a legal left turn into a TWLTL.

The officer was polite, professional and respectful. After I showed him the section in the Illinois Rules of the Road that permitted such a turn, he issued me a Warning, rather than a ticket.

I asked the City Manager to get a legal opinion from the City Attorney, and one of the attorneys wrote an opinion that such a turn was legal in several paragraphs and then concluded it was illegal. I heard later that several attorneys had discussed my question over pizza at lunch one day. Two of them asked why they were even discussing it, because I was right. They voted. The vote was 5-4 that it was wrong, and out came the letter.

Then I went to former Chief Joe Marvin, who told me a left-turn into a TWLTL was illegal. "Proof" was the signing on the pavement and on the shoulder; the arrows only indicated turns out of the lane. I maintained that the signing identified "traffic control devices" (the turn lane), and it was necessary to read the traffic code for the little, four-letter word "into", which permits safe left turns into the TWLTL.

A simple example: if you pull up at a Stop sign, you stop. Nowhere on the Stop sign does it tell you when or if you can proceed. You have to know that it is the law that allows you to go after stopping.

Then I got the Illinois State Police involved, and they were successful in persuading former Chief Marvin that the law did allow certain, safe left turns into a TWLTL. And then he issued a memo to officers to stop only drivers who violated the law.

Woodstock P.D. needs to enforce center-lane violations. There are many of them.

Drivers drive past long lines of stopped cars at red lights to turn left into businesses (the distance driven is the violation).

Drivers pass long lines of stopped cars to access left-turn lanes early. Illegal, because the TWLTL ends, requiring you to re-enter the traffic lane before entering the left-turn lane.

Drivers use the TWLTL as a passing lane and then cut back into the through lane.

Backing from a driveway on west side of Seminary (Route 47) across the southbound lane into the TWLTL between McHenry Avenue and 1500 N. Seminary is a daily problem. I have never seen anyone stopped for such a turn.

So this is this month's traffic "initiative" (crackdown). It's a good one, as long as only actual violators are stopped. It's a willful violation, not accidental. Tickets should be issued, not warnings.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Reasonable Vehicle Use Rules?

What are reasonable personal-use rules for take-home vehicles of law enforcement agencies? What are the cost-benefit ratios, or has that concept actually reached government? Or is it, if you are on the (my) team, you get a car or other privileges.

Maybe all these things are in place already. Maybe the rules are written down and agreed to, but are they followed?

Does the County get more "time" out of a deputy who has a take-home vehicle? Do deputies actually make traffic stops, when they observe violations when they are driving home after completing their shifts? If he does, does he count it as "duty" time? What if he gets hurt while making an off-duty traffic stop? Will he be entitled to workers' compensation benefits?

Do they make traffic stops on the way to work, resulting in late arrival and missing roll call? Are deputies compensated for that extra time, or is the "pay" the use of a vehicle to drive to work and back? Is the deputy charged mileage for the personal use of the squad car? Gas?

What off-duty use can a deputy make of the County vehicle? Can he run to the grocery store or the barber shop? If he does, in civilian clothes, is he entitled to make traffic stops out-of-uniform? If he is in the patrol car and observes a serious traffic violation, what does he do? Make the stop? Call it in? Ignore it?

Are take-home cars serviced on duty-time or while the deputy is off-duty? Suppose his take-home car is due for an oil change or a couple of new tires? Does he get this done on his own time and at a place near home; and, if so, how does the merchant/county vendor get paid?

Or is there a sheriff's department garage where deputies' vehicles and all other sheriff's department vehicles are serviced? What does the deputy do when his take-home car is due for service? Does he sit in the waiting room and cool his duty-time heels, while the car is worked on?

What range of services is provided in the Sheriff's garage? There is a garage with important privacy signs (Sheriff's & Coroner's Garage, or something like that) at the corner of Russel Court and Julie Street.

Is work done on any non-County-owned vehicles by this garage, such as on private vehicles of anyone at the Sheriff's Department or possibly on vehicles of any persons-of-interest (err, influence) in the County?

Does the Sheriff's Department keep track of the number of times in a year that deputies with take-home vehicles are called out between shifts? Ever?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Voters don't hired elected County officials

"DA" posted a comment to another article here which read, in part, (addressed to a reader who had posted a comment),

"Are you serious? You have to be joking, right? What do you think an election IS?? You are APPLYING for a job and the voters are the ones that HIRE you! Is that too high a concept for you to understand?"

In what country do you think DA lives? Any care to guess?

Voters elect officials; they don't "hire" them. If they "hired" then, then they could fire them. Elected State officials have ruled that one out.

Sheriff's name on department vehicles

I have just loved how so many people have taken up the issue of whether the (any?) sheriff's name ought to be on a sheriff's department vehicle.

It has been a tradition. It utilizes subliminal programing. You see "Nygren" (or the name of any other sheriff) so many times that you are mesmerized into voting for him when you see his name on the ballot.

The issue is not the removal of the name of the current sheriff or the money saved by painting on a new name.

The issue is that the County Sheriff is the agent of the People. And for that, knowing that the sheriff is the agent, it's not necessary to have his name or my name or any sheriff's name on any County-owned vehicle!

But you all already knew that.

Farmers Market

From the press release for the Woodstock Farmers Market. Did you vote yet? See the message at the end.

Royal Oak Orchard will be at the market this next Tuesday, August 18’th with apples, cider, pies, honey and their famous cider donuts. They will be coming on Tuesdays for the rest of the season. They have a wide variety of apples and it is always interesting to taste the new varieties as they ripen. We are in the heart of sweet corn season and several of our vendors have luscious varieties to try. Tomatoes are trickling in, but if you come early, they are at the market now.

Also on Saturday, August 22’nd we will have fruit from the family farm of Paul Friday of Michigan. They farm 100 acres in Coloma, Michigan where Paul is a peach and fruit breeder. They will be bringing his patented Flaming Fury Peach and nectarine and Bubblegum Plums. Also blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. Take a look and a taste.

We are scheduling another chef demo (watch for it later in August).

Thanks everyone for voting for the Woodstock Farmers market in the “Love your Market” contest. We are now 43’rd in the nation and the leading market in Illinois. If you haven’t voted yet, just go the following link:

(From) Keith, Market Manager, Woodstock Farmers Market

Woodstock Advocate to Resume

Publication of the Woodstock Advocate was interrupted slightly last week by a rather inconvenient, and surprise, event on Saturday morning - a heart attack!

About 10:30AM I experienced some pressure in my upper chest area, some fatigue (OK, well more than "some") and perspiring. Since I was standing in my living room and having a pleasant conversation with my stepson about his new electronics gadget, these symptoms got my immediate attention. I laid down, got up, laid down, got up and told him I needed to go to a hospital. I called 9-1-1 (learning experience with that one), got disconnected, and called WPD from the house phone.

Within minutes Ofc. George Kopulus arrived and asked me a few questions, while Joey kept his eyes peeled for Woodstock Fire Rescue. I walked out to the stretcher, was rolled into the paramedic vehicle, and they began tests and communication with Memorial Medical Center.

After a few minutes they were ready to go. When they closed the back door and turned on the interior ceiling flood lamps, I said, "I see the light!" They didn't know I was joking and said "Stay with us," so I opened my eyes and agreed!

To make a long story short (but longer in another writing), I was at Memorial (which doesn't do heart work) and was then flown by helicopter to NIMC. A heart catheter was inserted, a balloon placed and two stints, and it was off to the ICU until Tuesday, when I was moved up a floor to a semi-private room.

Looks like I'll be heading for home on Thursday.

My brother, Jim, drove in from Annapolis and is staying at my place.

Not being a student of anatomy, I still don't understand everything that has been done. It looks like I won't be riding the motorcycle for a short while. I'm hoping there will still be time for a late-summer motorcycle trip.

Many thanks to you who noticed I wasn't posting anything or answering email. Thanks for your calls!

The race is still on. Good thing it hasn't even started yet!!!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Is WPD's application fee illegal?

At the June 1, 2009, meeting of the Woodstock Board of Fire and Police Commissioners (BOFPC), the City proposed charging police officer applicants $30.00 for a testing fee. Although it expected to have only one position to fill, there was a feeling that as many as 300 candidates might apply.

Some quick math (300 x $30 = $9,000)... At the time $9,000 sounded like a lot of money to scarf up to fill just one position. There hasn't been any further mention of testing. Could it be that the economy now precludes hiring to fill any vacancies?

And then today I came across a State law that might have some bearing on the $30.00 fee to applicants.

"65 ILCS 5/10‑2.1‑6) (from Ch. 24, par. 10‑2.1‑6) Sec. 10‑2.1‑6. Examination of applicants; disqualifications. (a) All applicants for a position in either the fire or police department of the municipality shall be under 35 years of age, shall be subject to an examination that shall be public, competitive, and open to all applicants (unless the council or board of trustees by ordinance limit applicants to electors of the municipality, county, state or nation) and shall be subject to reasonable limitations as to residence, health, habits, and moral character. The municipality may not charge or collect any fee from an applicant who has met all prequalification standards established by the municipality for any such position."

A-ha! Read the last sentence again. "The municipality may not charge or collect any fee from an applicant who has met all prequalification standards established by the municipality for any such position." (Emphasis added)

Could a silly little provision in State law keep Woodstock from charging a fee to an applicant?

Half-truths and rumors?

So that this reader's comment doesn't get lost in the long string of comments in the article about politicizing the Office of the Sheriff, I am going to post QuitWhiningAlready's (QWA) comment here in a new article.

QWA wrote, in part, "Gus receives letters that contain half truths and rumor. None of it is substantiated any further than, "Oh, I heard that, too!". And we all know that if more than one person "heard" something at the SO it must be fact!"

One of the first letters containing "half truths and rumor" that I received informed me that a certain sergeant with the McHenry County Sheriff's Department had caused an accident in Woodstock that was never reported in the newspaper and for which he did not receive a ticket.

The story is "old news" now and doesn't require retelling in great detail.

When I began checking it out, sure enough, it had happened. The sergeant said he was "distracted" because he had sighted a "suspect" on the sidewalk, and he ran the stop sign. Unluckily for him, there was a car crossing the intersection at the time and he hit it, causing damage to both cars.

The accident was investigated by a Woodstock police officer, who didn't ticket the sergeant. No report of that accident was ever printed in the Northwest Herald. The Woodstock Police Department told me that they don't report every "minor" accident to the media.

And the other driver didn't scream about no ticket having been issued. He was the son of a police chief of a nearby community. And that chief is a resident of Woodstock and is a member of the Woodstock Board of Fire and Police Commissioners.

I want to be quick to add that I suspect no involvement or influence from the father of the young man whose car got hit. But, if the officer didn't recognize the relationship of the driver to a BOFPC member, I am sure that someone was quick to inform him.

Any other driver - ANY driver! - who ran a stop sign and caused an accident would have gotten a ticket.

No wonder people criticize the police for giving favors to police officers who violate traffic laws. This only became a big deal for me because it got "buried." If the sergeant had gotten a ticket for causing the accident, I wouldn't have batted an eye over it.

Another reason given to me by the Woodstock Police Department for "no news" about the accident was that officers have discretion whether to issue tickets. And well they should. But not when a driver admits to being distracted when he ran a stop sign and caused an accident.

And so, to answer QWA, I do check out the so-called "half truths and rumors." Reading a police report about an accident seems to be pretty good confirmation of facts.

Good business practices

Businesses have figured out that it's important to respond to customers who make contact by email and by telephone. If they leave messages, customers want to be contacted.

But what happens when government employees take off for a week or more. What happens to email and voicemail messages left for them? Anything? Nothing?

Municipal and County employees should be trained to place out-of-office, automatic-response messages on their e-mailboxes and to record an absence message on their voice mailboxes. It isn't all that hard.

For those who are communication-challenged, a supervisor could write out exact instructions and, if necessary, even write out a script for the employee's message.

When the employee returns, the out-of-office and absence messages should be canceled as the first order of business on the day of return..

This is all common sense, right? Shouldn't even need to write about it. Except today, Friday, 4:00PM, I called Woodstock City Hall to find out why I hadn't received a reply to an email sent on Monday; it was an email for which there could be time-sensitive importance. The employee I wanted to reach was on vacation this week!

I suggested that perhaps the City should require employees to use these messages for good "customer service." What do you think? Do you like receiving a message that the person with whom you have communicated will be away and will return on a certain date? Do you like having an option to contact another person in the office who handles the absent employee's business until he/she returns?

Gauger trial to start Monday

Gary Gauger lawauit against McHenry County and some of the deputies involved in his case is scheduled to start this Monday, August 10, 2009, at 10:00AM in Room 210, but you'd never know it from the press coverage (none) in the Northwest Herald, the Daily Herald or the Chicago Tribune.

The last mention in the two Heralds was in December and in the Chicago Tribune in November. Hello? Isn't anyone (at the papers) paying attention?

Why are the local papers so quiet about it? Their reporters should be all over this case. Of course, they wouldn't want to prejudice a potential juror, would they?

Questionable investigation tactics led to a questionable "confession", to a trial, to conviction, to sentencing, to a stay on death row ...

AND, after all that, Gauger was released from prison and the two killers were caught and are in prison.

Gauger's case names the following defendants:

Beverly Hendle,
Eugene Lowery (currently, Undersheriff of the McHenry County Sheriff's Department),
Christopher Pandre, in their individual and official capacities,
the Office of the McHenry County Sheriff (which was occupied by Sheriff Nygren's predecessor at the time of the arrest and trial), and
the County of McHenry.

Gauger seeks to recover damages for malicious prosecution and wrongful convition, death sentences and imprisonment.

Gauger's story can be read in his book, In Spite of the System, which is available at Read Between the Lynes bookstore on the Woodstock Square. Pick up your copy this week-end. Call 815.206.5967 and they will hold a copy for you.

Cash for Clunkers - how stupid!

Two billion more? How stupid!!!

The bail-out of the auto industry and dealers on the first billion was bad enough. That billion got spent much faster than Congress thought it would.

Hey, if you're giving away free money, what do you think would happen? That it would sit on the shelf forever?

How does the clunkers program work?

Trade in a "clunker" that gets 18mpg or less on one (another clunker? or must it be a new car?) that gets 22mpg, and get a $3,500 voucher.

If you trade that 18mpg clunker for one that gets at least 28mpg, then scarf up $4,500.

Congress thought the program "worked" so well that they poured another $2 billion down the drain.

Who pays for this? You do. Well, actually, you won't, but your great-grandchildren will.

OK to text & drive until Dec. 31

What a bunch of wimps!

Illinois has a new traffic law - you can't text and drive, but it won't become law until January 1, 2010. Why didn't the legislators have the guts to make it effective immediately? Maybe they couldn't spell "immediately" while they were driving and texting.

Have you noticed how many drivers are texting while they are driving? Many! In almost every line of moving traffic, you can see drivers of all ages reading and sending text messages. Check it out.

And get out of their way. You'll have half a fighting chance if you let them get around you; ten you'll only have to worry about oncoming texting drivers. If you spot one in your rearview mirror, do whatever you must to let them go around.

Dialing a cell phone is bad enough; you are only distracted momentarily. Figure out the voicedial function on your cell phone and use it. Not the speed-dial; the voice-dial.

Earlier this week I was out for a motorcycle ride and, on the way through Fox River Grove, I noticed the woman driver to my right was constantly looking down toward her lap. At a red light I saw that she was studying a newspaper advertising insert. I guess she didn't want a cop to see what she was reading while driving, so she had it in her lap, instead of holding it up in front of the steering wheel! Her eyes were off the road constantly, just searching for a few pennies to save.

Had she run into the car in front of her at 30MPH while trying to save some money at the Dollar Store, there really wouldn't be much net savings, would there?

Civic calendar disappears from Woodstock website

Check out the new look to the Community Calendar on

If you have tried to follow civic meetings of the various boards and commissions of the City and even the meetings of the City Council itself, your efforts will now be much harder to dind out if and when they meet.

These meetings used to be shown on the Community Calendar on the homepage of the City's website. From a look at the Calendar over the summer and even now, the biggest event of the century has been Horses of a Different Color. Does that even benefit Woodstock? And you'll find the Mozart Festival and the McHenry County Fair there, too.

But you will not find the City Council meetings, the Historic Preservation Commission, the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners or any of the other IMPORTANT boards and commissions (they are all important).

In an era of demands for transparency in government, Woodstock has taken a huge step BACKWARDS by removing these meeting from the Calendar.

It was bad enough that the City immediately removed official meetings from the Calendar as soon as they were over. That was all programmed. A little checkmark in the box to retain the meeting on the Calendar (or not to delete it after the scheduled time) would have solved that problem.

Earlier this year, when I inquired why meetings were so quickly removed from the Calendar, the answer was that it was programmed that way. Well, of course, it was; and it would have been just as easy to program it another way.

The problem is that the huge majority of people in Woodstock don't care. Just so long as it is not in their own backyards, they don't get involved.

Come on, folks. Start showing up. Start caring about Woodstock. Show up at City Council meetings. Speak out during the Public Comment period. Act for definite action and follow up to find out if it happens. If it doesn't, show up again. Also, it never hurts to show up and say Thanks.

Illinois Lawyers' Relief Act

The new Illinois "Lawyers' Relief and Retirement Act" has been published by the Illinois State Board of Elections.

When you try to get a straight answer out of the State Board of Elections or the County's Elections office to a simple question, the answer is "Look it up in our publication."

"OK, that's why I called after looking it up."

The next answer is, "Call a lawyer; we don't give legal advice."

It should be a simple matter to get clarification of an election law, not an "interpretation", for a commonly-asked question. Similar questions must come up every election cycle. Wouldn't it be a simple matter to give more examples for clarification?

There may be as many answers to election laws questions as there are lawyers. If you call five lawyers and ask the same question about election law, probably the first thing you'll hear is, "I'll have to check into that for you." Ka-ching, ka-ching. Okay, at $300/hour, how long do you want them "to check into that"? You'd better set that limit right up front, either time-wise or dollar-wise.

$50.00 worth? Forget it. No lawyer is going to put his shingle at risk without spending enough time to give you the right answer. (This is one of the reasons that I use a pre-paid legal service, recommend it, and sell it. I have unlimited telephone access to a lawyer for my legal questions.)

For example, let's say you want to sign a petition for a Republican candidate for one office and a Democratic candidate for another office.

Elections law says, "A signer MAY NOT sign petitions for a candidate of more than one political party for the same Primary Election."

Does "Primary Election" mean for a particular office? Or does it mean for the entire February 2, 2010, Primary Election (all offices)?

I can understand not allowing a person to sign petitions of persons competing for the same elected position in an election, although maybe that's not even a reasonable restriction. If you are willing to sign a second person's petition in order to give him or her a shot at the office, why not?

But let's say that you would like to sign a petition for a Republican candidate for County Clerk and a Democratic candidate for Treasurer. You are not supposed to do it.

Will people do it? Probably. Will they get caught at it? Probably not, unless every signature of every petition signer is examined, looked up or challenged.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

August Coffee with the Chief

The August Coffee with the Chief will be Monday, August 10, 2009, from 7:00-8:30PM at police headquarters. Joining Chief Lowen will be Donovan Day, Woodstock's Code Enforcement Officer.

If you have questions about the City Codes, particularly about stored vehicles, tall grass, dilapidated structures, etc., this would be a good time to meet Donovan and learn how hard the City works to keep our town nice.

If you have questions about police matters (loud radios, loud parties, speeders, gangs, drug users in your neighborhood or any other police matter, this might be a good meeting to attend, since it appears there will not be a formal presentation that evening.

Find out what role you can play as a good citizen and resident in Woodstock to keep our community safe.

For more information, call Tamara Reed, the chief's executive administrative assistant, at 815.338.6787

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Jana Nelson gets 10 years


August 5, 2009

McHenry County State’s Attorney, Louis A. Bianchi, is pleased to announce that today Jana Nelson was sentenced to 10 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections for 2 counts of Theft, 8 counts of Forgery, 1 count of Online Theft by Deception in a case prosecuted by Assistant State’s Attorney Ryan Blackney.

Jana Nelson admitted guilt to stealing over $150,000 by forging business checks without authorization after being hired as a bookkeeper for Robert Pacifico and Associates, Inc., a Woodstock Architecture Firm. Jana Nelson’s criminal acts wrought utter financial destruction on the now owner of Robert Pacifico and Associates, Emily Pacifico. The sentence sends a strong message that financial crimes can have a real and significant impact on their victims, and will be prosecuted vigorously.

Perjury - big deal or not?

Just how big a deal is perjury? You know, when you raise your right hand and swear to tell the truth (the whole truth, and nothing but the truth), and then you don't?. Is this a big deal or not?

Is it okay to swear to tell the truth and then lie just a little? Or a lot? What if what you say is "mostly" true? Is that enough?

Let's say that you go to a judge and swear that certain events happened and that you are worried about your safety. Let's say that, as a result of your sworn testimony, the judge issues an Order of Protection in your favor. Is there a pretty high obligation on the person so swearing to tell the truth?

Or suppose you are a law enforcement officer (police officer or deputy sheriff) and you know you have caught the perpetrator. You just can't prove it. But you "know" you've got the right guy. You know your hunch is right. You rely on your instincts. Is it okay to lie "a little" to get a conviction?

In the cop trade this is called "testilying". Hey, it's all right; the guy is guilty and needs to be put away. So, is it okay or not?

How severe should the penalty be for lying? If the person is in a position of trust and must be relied on to be truthful, and is not, should that cost him his job?

What should be the opinion of an employer or the employer's attorney? If a person's employer and its attorney becomes aware that am employee has lied under oath, and there is a strong connection between employment and the incident, what action should the employer take? Where a person's "word" is critical to satisfactory job performance, should termination result?

Should a case of perjury be soft-pedaled? Kept quiet? Dragged out?

Should the line be in concrete or in sand?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Corrections officer quits

On July 28 I wrote about two corrections officers who were in hot water at the McHenry County Correctional Facility (Jail). One of them was charged, and the Northwest Herald reported that Elias Dario Fortoso, 29, was charged with battery and official misconduct for alleged inappropriate conduct with female inmates.

The second corrections officer (jailer) has resigned. Looks like the guess that the last name started with B was pretty close.

Sheriff politicizes office - again

Four years ago I complained about this, and I suspect I complained about it four years before that.

Sheriff Nygren sent out his form letter, asking Committeemen and Committeewomen to gather signatures for him so that he can run again for Sheriff of McHenry County. What's wrong with this?

He displays the badge of office on the letterhead and refers to himself as "Sheriff Keith Nygren." At the end of the letter, he signs his name above "Keith Nygren, Sheriff."

I objected to this four years ago, and I wasn't even running against him then. It is wrong - dead wrong - to use the emblem of your office in a political campaign. Apparently, I am the only one around here who sees a problem with this.

After all, is there a Republican in McHenry County who doesn't know he is sheriff (but only until December 1, 2010)?

There is a principle involved here, but it doesn't make it to his campaign.

I believe the Office of Sheriff belongs to the People. It doesn't not belong to Keith Nygren. When I'm Sheriff, his name will come off all vehicles, and my name will not go on any vehicle. They are your vehicles, not mine, and they will not be used for politicking!

Same with all the hand-outs. Brochures will be from the Office of the Sheriff, not from me. There won't be any candy or flags with my name on them.

Deputies of the Sheriff's Department will be highlighted in promotional materials and publicity. And you will never see me mix politics and law enforcement services as Keith does in the last sentence in his letter, when he invites political supporters to call on him if he can be of assistance to them or to the people they protect in their districts.

Woodstock's new court - August 13

Woodstock's new Administrative Adjudication Court ("Court") opens for business on Thursday, August 13, 2009, at 9:30AM. Where does this all happen? Right in the City Council chambers at City Hall.

For the full scoop, visit City Hall and pick up your own copy of Publication 5, Administrative Adjudication. Or you can let your fingers do the walking, and just go to the City's website at and then click on "Good Neighbor Brochures" (left side) and then click on "5 Administrative Adjudication."

It is set up to print on two pages, which you can then glue back-to-back. Or if you are really proficient with your printer, print one page, feed the paper back in and print Page 2.

The cover informs the reader that s/he can read the Rules and Regulations governing Hearing procedures online, but you'll need better eyes than I have to find them. They might be there, but I can't find them.

The brochure identifies the Court as being in the Administrative Adjudication Division, which would seem to indicate that it is part of a Department of the City. A search of Departments on the City's website does not reveal such a Division.

Here are the types of cases to be heard by the Court, either initially or in the future:
  • Building Code Violations
  • Zoning Code Violations
  • Community Code Violations
  • Police Issued Tickets (ah-ha!)
  • Red Light Tickets (future)
  • Parking Tickets
  • Smoking Tickets
Reasons for establishing the Court are listed in the brochure, but they forgot a good one. Having the Court run by the City of Woodstock means all the money stays right at home, instead of going into the Circuit Court coffers, where only a piece makes its way back to Woodstock.

The brochure explains that the City's case will be presented by the City's attorney "or sworn representative." Let's hope this is not just a cash cow for the City Attorney. Administrative Adjudication Courts are sometimes billed as a lower-cost alternative than Circuit Court. Maybe neither side should have attorneys. Just cut them out of the picture.

Let the City's police or code enforcement officer tell it to the judge, and then let the defendant tell his story in plain English; then let the judge decide. One glitch? If the defendant can't tell it in plain English, no interpreter will be provided by the Court. So, if you speak Spanish (only), Polish, Russian or Moonlish, you'll have to bring your own interpreter who is at least 18 years old.

Don't forget to turn off your cell phones.

Will court costs be added to fines? If so, how much are the costs for this Court?