As they rounded that last curve in the northern Illinois race to the bottom, I was having a hard time predicting if the Daily Herald or Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office would cross the finish line first.
It certainly has been neck-and-neck.
But just as I was getting ready to place a bet on the DH, with a burst of abject stupidity, obliviousness, or downright corruption – I’m not sure which, the KCSAO surged to a five length lead. And that ain’t an easy thing to do in the final stretch.
Please allow me to explain!
Despite consistent complaints of residents paying former Dundee Township Highway Commissioner Larry Braasch for driveway culvert repairs, with checks made out to him – not the township – and no one knows where the money went, the KCSAO announced they wouldn’t pursue charges against him.
I’d repeat that paragraph, but I’ll simply encourage you to read it again, instead.
When I relayed this story to a local attorney, he was so flabbergasted I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. Me! Jeff Ward! That conversation went something like this:
Attorney: “But Braasch essentially confessed to taking personal checks!”
JW: “I know.”
Attorney: “There’s no record of the Township receiving any money for that work!”
JW: “I know.”
Attorney: “And the KCSAO didn’t even take it to the grand jury?”
Attorney: “And the McMahon and Braasch families go way back, right?”
JW: “Yes, they do.”
Attorney: “This is ridiculous. This is wrong. What the hell are they doing?”
JW: “I’ve been asking that question for the better part of a year, sir!”
Attorney: “Joe McMahon has got to go!
JW: “Yes he does!”
And when I’m the calm one in that kind of conversation, it really says something.
There are three possible explanations for this utter abrogation of justice, and none of them are good:
1. McMahon continues to take his daily dose of Fukitol
That’s been my contention for the last eight months and it may well explain how this thing completely blew up in his face. County Board members are furious, Dundee Township officials are beside themselves and all the local lawyers are pissed.
We’ve already established that the absentee McMahon has let the inmates run the asylum for years, and he’s using his job – one to which he was appointed and not elected – to land a better gig.
Since he certainly hasn’t left his heart in Kane County, perhaps McMahon doesn’t give a bleep about any fallout from anything.
2. It’s corruption bordering on official misconduct
To understand this possibility, you have to understand that the McMahon and Braasch families go way back in the Dundee political hierarchy. Without going into all the gory details, Dan McMahon, Joe’s father, was Dundee Township Assessor while Larry was the Highway Commissioner.
They were both hotheads, they were both complete fuckups and they both shared a massive disdain for then Township Supervisor Sue Harney. Don’t get me wrong, I love Sue, but she does share my capacity to rub people the wrong way.
So, my first thought was, and I’m not sure it’s wrong, this blatant prosecutorial lapse was a way of paying off a family debt or helping out an old family friend. Because the failure to know a case fraught with this kind of political peril was sitting on a prosecutor’s desk would be the height of political naïveté, or the kind of arrogance described in point 1.
Perhaps McMahon correctly estimated the local newspapers would give him a pass. The DH’s Harry Hitzeman stops by his house every morning to kiss his ass before work. But what he didn’t consider is the vast number of Braasch detractors who would rain down on him like the wrath of God for failing to do the right thing.
C’mon! This is the case the generally chickenshit McMahon doesn’t let the judge sort out? Right!
3. It’s rank obliviousness
And this is exactly what McMahon is saying.
A number of insiders told me the State’s Attorney is claiming he had no idea this was on the assistant prosecutor’s desk; he had no idea who that prosecutor was; and he had no idea she had dismissed the charges until he read it in the paper.
What???? Apparently, the buck doesn’t stop there. It would seem our comatose State’s Attorney doesn’t understand this scenario is so much worse than anything described in points one and two.
If Braasch’s charge skating could be attributed to arrogance or McMahon checking out, that can be fixed. All we have to do is put the heat on the State’s Attorney to do the right thing, and that’s happening as we speak.
Corruption can be corrected, too. All that typically takes is exposing it to the light of day. But rank incompetence? That’s something completely different. I’ve said it many times before, you can fix nefariousness, but you can’t fix stupid.
I realize no State’s Attorney can possibly be aware of every case that comes through their office, but to blissfully ignore those that can bite you in the butt like this one did? That belies the special kind of arrogance and entitlement mentality of someone who’s never had to win an election.
Meanwhile, the fact that I’m not (yet) an attorney doesn’t mean I couldn’t convince a jury – or a judge – of Braasch’s guilt beyond the slightest reasonable doubt. All I’d have to do is put those Dundee residents on the stand to testify they wrote personal checks to Braasch for work performed by the Township. That’s it!
It doesn’t matter if no one knows where the money went. Even the average not-smart-enough-to-get-out-of-jury-duty juror couldn’t possibly miss the obvious inference. It would be a slam dunk!
So, if I were the Chairman or any County Board member, I’d want the State’s Attorney to offer some sort of official explanation for this abject BS, and I’d want that explanation to be made publicly. Then I’d insist those charges be re-reviewed posthaste.
My attorney friend was right. Whether it’s point 1, 2, or 3, Joe McMahon has got to go!