Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Information on Bianchi Photo Raises More Questions

The context of a photo currently in rotation on the home page of the website for Illinois Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor (ILSAAP) featuring McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi and others "standing up for justice" unravels.

The gathering, including three members of the ILSAAP Board of Governors members and ILSAAP Executive Director Pat Delfino, was in recognition of IL Rep. Frank Mautino (D), 76th District, as "Outstanding Legislator of the Year" in the fall of 2010 from the Illinois State's Attorneys Association. 

It remains unclear when the photo was taken; one staff person said that the award was announced in October 2010, but not presented until March. The presence of former Sangamon County State's Attoney John Schmidt in the photo suggests that it was taken in 2010 prior to leaving his position for an appointment to the circuit court.  Schmidt served as chairman of ILSAAP's Board of Governors in 2010.

ILSAAP Board of Governors members often serve simultaneously in leadership positions on the Association. For example, former DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett served both as ILSAAP's vice chairman and the Association's president in 2008.  Former Association presidents augment their resumes with such accomplishments.

Standing to Bianchi's left in the photo is LaSalle County State's Attorney Brian Towne who is scheduled to appear today with Winnebago County Circuit Court Judge Joseph McGraw in a three-person panel discussion at an ILSAAP seminar in Naperville. Bianchi's attendance in the photo implies that he has served recently on the Association's board.  

Bianchi was indicted on Sept. 10, 2010.

The Illinois State's Attorneys Association

ILSAAP and the Association team up on matters of policy, giving the impression that they are two separate forces flexing muscles for or against an issue, while membership and administration for both entities are essentially the same. Recently, the two entities sent joint letters in opposition of the abolishment of the death penalty to Illinois legislators.

An old press release described the Association: Formed in the 1930s, the Association is comprised of State’s Attorneys representing each of Illinois’ 102 counties.  In addition to overseeing the management of the State Appellate Prosecutor’s Office, the Association assists State’s Attorneys throughout Illinois by providing policy guidance, advocating on major issues of concern to State’s Attorney’s Offices such as the crime trends and criminal justice reform as well as proposing and monitoring legislation. The Association also offers Continuing Legal Education courses to Assistant State’s Attorneys on a bi-annual basis, the most recent of which was held last week in Chicago.

The Association, a non-profit entity incorporated in 1948, currently lists Delfino as its agent with his home address belonging to the Association.  In a tax form filed from 2008, the Association reported $87,000 in gross receipts, with program revenue (including government fees and contracts) of $63,000 and membership dues of $22,800.  Expenses reported in 2008 included $50,000 for hotel accommodations and an additional $20,000 for conference expenses. 

One Illinois county auditor reported on-line a membership fee of $350 to the Association this year.  

McHenryLeaks asks:

The Illinois State's Attorneys Association is difficult to research.  Could this Association be considered quasi-private, not subject to the Freedom of Information Act and the Open Meetings Act?  

Would ILSAAP be required to release information on the Association?  If not, would doing so be done only as a courtesy?

Should we rethink non-profit corporations which are administered by government employees (probably during regular working hours) and largely funded by tax dollars?

Following is documentation regarding the Illinois State's Attorneys Association.  To enlarge, click the image: