The Northwest Herald’s Kevin Craver had an exclusive yesterday about a deal being considered by the McHenry County Board to dig itself out of the financial hole its unquestioning members have dug.
Without demanding detailed bills from Judge Gordon Graham, the County Board authorized payment of several hundred thousand dollars of legal and investigative fees to Special Prosecutor Henry Tonigan, Thomas McQueen and Quest International.
As someone who has stopped counting the amount spent on divorce lawyers when the total reached $100,000, I can tell you I have never paid an attorney a dime that did not have itemized backup.
Yet, the McHenry County Board did just that.
Until McHenry County Blog published Quest International’s billings, County officials had no clue that subpoenas were being served at sometimes ten times the cost the Sheriff’s Office would have charged.
Clearly the Special Prosecutor was not treating his fiduciary duty to the taxpayers seriously.
Now McHenry County State’s Attorney Lou Bianchi’s spectacularly successful defense attorney Terry Ekl has made an offer the county can’t refuse.
It doesn’t involve a horse’s head in the bed either.
He is offering to go after Tonigan, his assistant Special Prosecutor McQueen and investigative firm Quest International in a Federal Civil Rights violation case with the taxpayers getting a substantially reduced fee for defending Bianchi and his secretary Joyce Synek first.
$280,000 would have to be paid upfront, but of any money won on Bianchi’s and Synek’s claims, the county would get the first $298,000.
In addition, McHenry County would get two-thirds of anything won on its separate claims with Ekl getting one-third.
By accepting the proposal, the county could end up paying far less for this fiasco than if it just continued writing checks for unitemized legal and padded investigative work.
Otherwise, Ekl plans to ask Judge Joseph McGraw for something in the neighborhood of $650,000 for his and Ernest DiBenedetto’s defense work. There is no additional request to pay investigators on the defense side of the case.
With Tonigan-selected investigative firm Quest having billed about $300,000, does anyone think the total bill from the Special Prosecutors won’t exceed $1 million?
So, let’s assume the county has $1.6 million–both sides of the case–that it will have to pay, if the board does nothing.
The county will not have to pay any of Ekl’s legal fees in Federal Court. He would be representing Bianchi and Synek, plus McHenry County on a contingency fee basis.
To repeat, the county would get the first $298,000 to repay the reduced legal fees of Ekl and DiBenedetto. That would come from the winnings Ekl believes that will result from Bianchi’s and Synek’s claims.
In addition, two-thirds of any money recovered beyond that amount on the separate claim(s) of the county would go into the public treasury. Elk would get the othe one-third.
The case against those involved with prosecuting Bianchi, Synek, Ron Salgado and Mike McCleary might be challenged on the basis of fraudulent and unnecessary billing.
It might include the assertion that the case should have been quickly closed because the charges made by Amy Dalby were all outdated, that is, barred by the statute of limitations.
Maybe a breach of fiduciary responsibility will be included.
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A note about confidentiality. Those who participate in Executive Sessions (that is, secret meetings) are not prohibited by law from sharing what is discussed with others. Ask former Crystal Lake Park Board member Leona Nelson about that.
Social pressure certainly can and is applied to keep the public from knowing what the “insiders” know.
So, how did the Northwest Herald reporter get his inside information?
My guess is that, with primary elections coming up, someone want to gain his favor.
The sources for this story, by the way, was neither the Northwest Herald nor any county board member.