Without admitting liability, the McHenry County Board voted 18-3 to pay Terry Ekl and Ernest DiBenedetto $275,000 to settle claims of over $600,000 in legal fees and expenses to defend State’s Attorney Lou Bianchi and his assistant Joyce Synek.
That is $5,000 less than the $280,000 that Ekl requested in September of last year.
“It represents action by this County Board to save money,” Law and Justice Committee Chairman Nick Provenzano observed.
The payment, to be made within ten days, is “for full and final satisfaction if all legal fees, costs and expenses” related to the
case brought by Henry Tonigan and Thomas McQueen in their capacities as Special Prosecutors appointed by then-Associate Judge Gordon Graham.
The settlement document and release does not, however, “release, acquit or discharge any claims against the Special State’s Attorneys” (Tonigan or McQueen) “or Quest Consultants International, or its employees.”
Should such a civil suit be successful, Bianchi and Synek agree to pay the County up to $275,000. Unless awarded legal fees, the two would deduct out-of-pocket expenses and one-third of attorneys’ fees.
Should Bianchi and Synek sue those involved in the two prosecutions, which were so poorly presented that they both resulted in directed verdicts, the two agree not to pursue any liability against county taxpayers or its insurers.
Lake County Assistant State’s Attorney Daniel J. Jasica will represent McHenry County’s interests. Such cross-county representation when there is a conflict of interest is not new to the two counties. There will be no charge for Jasica’s service.
The vote on the agreement was 18-3.
The two Democrats, Paula Yensen and Kathy Bergan Schmidt, plus retiring Republican Marc Munaretto, were the “No” votes. Absent from the meeting were Randy Donley and John Hammerand. Barb Wheeler left during the closed session prior to the time the Board voted in open session.