November 2007 activity reports from the Illinois Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor (ILSAAP) raise questions as to the nature of "extensive" contracted media consultation performed for McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi and former Winnebago County State's Attorney Phil Nicolosi.
Curry Public Strategies of Wheaton secured a nine-month contract with ILSAAP starting the previous month, which was to include assisting state's attorneys on crisis management advice on high profile cases. These consultants would later morph into Reverse Spin and describe themselves as political "operatives" and "game changers".
"In November 2007," the consultants reported, "I consulted extensively with two State's Attorneys -- by phone, email and in person."
No ILSAAP work product of the media consultants is available that month. By correlating dates and events listed in activity reports with media stories published at the time, however, there is potential that some of their tax-paid services may have overlapped into political and/or personal legal matters of state's attorneys and candidates Bianchi and Nicolosi.
On Nov. 27, 2007, Curry Public Strategies met with Bianchi and others in Itasca to discuss a pending press matter, according to a monthly activity report submitted to ILSAAP. The date fell on a Tuesday. It is unknown who else attended the meeting or if it took place during work hours. Itasca is approximately a one-hour drive from Woodstock. (This was the second time the media consultants had met with Bianchi in Itasca on a week day regarding press issues.)
The following day, the consultants reported that they wrote talking points for Bianchi. (See timeline below)
McHenry County Chief Judge Michael Sullivan appointed David O'Connor on Nov. 29 as special prosecutor to investigate Amy Dalby, a former employee of the state's attorney, for transferring computer files. Later in a June 1, 2009 press statement, drafted by the same media consultants, Bianchi said that the state's attorney's office petitioned the court to appoint O'Connor.
The media consultants' first project out of the gate for ILSAAP was to begin working one-on-one with Bianchi starting Oct. 1, 2007. Two days after the consultants' contract began, Bianchi's office received a tip from an alleged "unnamed informant" about transferred computer files.
That fall, Bianchi was a candidate for re-election; he would later pay the media consultants for political work during the same time period they worked one-on-one with him via their state contract.
He criticized the s
’s attorney’s office, “labeling it a ‘political command post’ for Bianchi and his top advisors". tate
"Occasionally, a state's attorney knows something bad is coming out, or something is going to be portrayed as bad will come out...in that event the tactic to be used may be to aggressively pre-empt the prospective bad publicity by putting a positive spin on the case
Despite devoting extensive attention on Bianchi off and on from 2007 through 2009, no reference of the ILSAAP media consultants/spokespersons can be located in the McHenry County mainstream news until several months ago. Other than the possibility of Dalby's computer files, it remains unknown what project/s at Bianchi's office involved the urgent and extensive work of an ILSAAP media consultant at this time.
Any damage control related to campaign issues or the computer files could be problematic, as to the legitimacy of using a state-funded vendor to assist a government official with a potential political or personal legal matter.
The last ILSAAP contract expired several years ago, but apparently not the media consultants' activity with Bianchi. The consultants have reportedly been conducting public relations for the state's attorney's defense with attorney Terry Ekl.
Winnebago County State's Attorney Phil Nicolosi
Early in August 2007, Nicolosi was appointed to replace Paul Logli as state's attorney by the Winnebago County Board. Within several weeks of the appointment, the Rockford Register Star published, "State's Attorney Should Give Up Township Post". The editorial called for Nicolosi to resign his 16-year post as a Rockford Township trustee as his newly appointed position as state's attorney was a potential conflict of interest.
Nicolosi saw nothing improper, but the newspaper didn't back down. (See timeline below)
On Oct. 29, 2007, Chuck Prorok announced his candidacy for the Republican primary against Nicolosi. No opposition in the Republican primary for that seat had taken place in over two decades; Prorok would eventually defeat Nicolosi three months later.
Shortly after this announcement, Curry Public Strategies reported working on a press announcement, which could be defined as typical work for an ILSAAP vendor. During those few days, the media published stories on a conflict of interest involving a high-profile robbery case and the offices of the state's attorney and attorney general.
The nature of this media work shifted, though, several days later.
Curry Public Strategies reported on Nov. 6, "Received email from Nicolosi, about negative editorial in RRS (Rockford Register Star). Drafted response letter to RRS and sent to Nicolosi. Talked to him several times on phone. Distributed press release from Appellate Prosecutor's office to Rockford media."
The next day, the Rockford Register Star published, "State's Attorney Resigns as Rockford Township Trustee". The article reads, “Nicolosi’s resignation comes in tandem with the formal filing of his candidacy for state’s attorney, he said. He faces Republican challenger Chuck Prorok in the Feb. 5 primary election.”
The ILSAAP consultants reported on the same day this article was published, "Talked to Nicolosi on phone and exchanged emails. Also reviewed letter to township board. And reviewed and made changes to revised RRS letter. Talked to RRS edit board editor Wally Haas."
The following day, the Star published, "One Elected Job is Enough: Nicolosi Makes Right Call". The editorial applauded Nicolosi’s resignation as trustee and could be perceived as image boosting, both as state's attorney and candidate.
Activity reports submitted to ILSAAP by the consultants are signed off with the initials "PD" -- Pat Delfino, currently ILSAAP's director.
Oct. 29, 2007 Chuck Prorok announces his candidacy for the Republican primary against State's Attorney Nicolosi. (Prorok would later defeat Nicolosi in the 2008 primary.)
Curry Public Strategies reports, "Talked to Nicolosi on phone and exchanged emails. Also reviewed letter to township board. And reviewed and made changes to revised RRS letter. Talked to RRS edit board editor Wally Haas."
Why, out of the entire state of Illinois, was McHenry County an immediate and top priority of ILSAAP in October and November 2007? What required crisis intervention?
Why did the ILSAAP media consultants drive from Wheaton to Itasca for a clandestine meeting with the "McHenry County SA" and others about "a pending press matter"? Why Itasca? Was this meeting held at a law firm? Who were the others at this meeting, as reported in the activity report? Why discuss press-related issues and then not introduce yourselves to the press as the ILSAAP media consultants/ spokespersons?
Why did the media consultants keep a low profile in McHenry County? Did they not want to give the appearance that Bianchi was being handled by a state agency, after all, doing so might raise suspicions as to why this was even necessary? Why then not bother keeping a low profile with Rockford media?
Why did ILSAAP contract political "operatives" and "game changers" instead of conventional PR firms? All Illinois state entities have communications support on staff, so why were these consultants even necessary?
Did the October and November 2007 work of the ILSAAP media consultants in McHenry County have anything to do with Amy Dalby's computer files?
Why didn't Nicolosi resign his Township trustee position until after Prorok announced his candidacy? And why was ILSAAP involved at all in this matter, especially when Nicolosi was announcing his candidacy?
Did the media consultants advise Bianchi and Nicolosi on any political or any potential personal legal matters? If yes, is this an appropriate assignment for ILSAAP?
Would ILSAAP or Bianchi be willing to share the October and November 2007 work product of the media consultants with the tax payers?
Following are documents pertaining to Curry Public Strategies and their activity reports for November 2007 submitted to ILSAAP. McHenryLeaks has concealed personal information: