Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Meanwhile...Down in Kane County, Unpublished ILSAAP Ties in Ongoing Prosecution of Coroner Chuck West

Former Kane County State's Attorney John Barsanti Has Served on the Board of Governors of the Illinois Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor and Has Earned $31,400 from the Agency Since 2007. Said Appointed Attorneys Chuck Colburn and David O'Connor Would Be "Independent" and "Avoid Conflict of Interest" in Ongoing Prosecution of Kane County Coroner Chuck West.

In purported efforts to avoid conflicts of interest, potentially worse conflicts of interest were created when two men associated with the Illinois Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor (ILSAAP) were appointed to engage in adversarial roles in the ongoing prosecution of County Coroner Chuck West.

Former Kane County State's Attorney John Barsanti, appointed to the 16th Judicial Circuit last December, turned over the investigation of West's alleged misconduct to ILSAAP special prosecutor Chuck Colburn in October 2009, as the state's attorney's office represents the coroner's office. 

Barsanti referred to this transfer as "independent" and avoiding a "conflict of interest" in quotes to the local media.

From 2008 through 2010, Barsanti was serving on the ILSAAP Board of Governors; minutes show Barsanti and Colburn attending the same Board meetings. Prior to being elected state's attorney in 2004, Barsanti had served as an ILSAAP special prosecutor for four years. 

State records also affirm that Barsanti has been paid $31,400 from ILSAAP since 2007; much of it shown as instructor's fees for seminars. (See all vouchers following article)

In May 2010, West was indicted on five counts of official misconduct. Barsanti hired Orland Park attorney David O'Connor the following month to represent Kane County in a dispute over public payment of West's legal fees, again citing a conflict of interest prevented the state's attorney's office from doing so. 

However, O'Connor is ILSAAP's seminar coordinator; his contracts for this Agency work have totaled $150,000 since 2007. During the time he was involved with Kane's fees dispute, O'Connor's 2009-2010 contract for $35,200 was ending and $66,000 contract had just begun. State of Illinois contract obligations of O'Connor say "contractor shall design, develop and implement legal training formats for"..."trial advocacy programs".

Both Colburn and O'Connor have participated in high-profile cases involving McHenry County in recent years. (Click red type for more information) 

Presiding over McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi's prosecution is Winnebago County Circuit Court Judge Joseph McGraw. State records show that McGraw had been paid $18,404 by ILSAAP for instructor's fees at seminars through April; a seminar scheduled for May could have earned him another $3,125 from the Agency.

In April, McGraw was requested to withdraw from the second trial when a prosecutor questioned his impartiality due to payments from ILSAAP. McGraw denied the request. The Chicago Tribune quoted McGraw, "These accusations when considered in context, do not create even the appearance of impropriety." 

McHenryLeaks asks:

Does the prosecution of West have anything to do with the desire of some Kane County Board members to eliminate the coroner's office? Does the negative publicity from a prosecution and trial fuel a referendum necessary to achieve this goal? Or is it, like everything else on this anonymous blog, pure happenstance?

Is O'Connor extending invitations to instructors? Doesn't that fall under his job description?

Of all Illinois attorneys, why did Barsanti choose O'Connor to avoid a conflict of interest? Why did McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi *specifically* request O'Connor to avoid a conflict of interest in the Dalby case? Why is O'Connor on the short list?

Should ILSAAP rethink paying practicing state's attorneys and judges as instructors?

Should seminar coordination be assigned to an ILSAAP employee?  

Legal scholars, has anything reported on McHenryLeaks come close to meeting the criteria for the appearance of impropriety? 

Illinois is the only state with such an appellate prosecutorial agency having its own special prosecution unit. Does it merit review?

Does the ILSAAP Board of Governors make decisions on contracts for O'Connor and/or funding for seminars?

Following are government documents pertaining to Kane County Circuit Court Judge John Barsanti and ILSAAP. McHenryLeaks has concealed personal information. To enlarge, click or double-click the image: