The Daily Herald did a pretty good job covering the latest Kane County Zoning Board of Appeals get together in which that illustrious group, for the third time, voted down the Maxxam Partners’ planned Campton Hills drug rehabilitation center.
Since their decision is merely advisory, for the third time, the fate of the project rests with the full County Board, who may as well give it the thumbs up, because, in the words of that great philosopher Blondie, it’s coming in “one way, or another!”
Another no vote would be as futile as trying to get Angelina Jolie to stay on her meds.
But the most fascinating part of that meeting came when retired 16th Circuit Judge Ed Schreiber took Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon to task for “capitulating” to Maxxam in a proposed settlement to their $68 million lawsuit against the County.
Schreiber said his own foray into determining the quality of the KCSAO’s defense of the two previous County Board no votes left him with the sinking feeling that none ever existed. Of the pending settlement he told the ZBA, “It’s even worse than the two prior proposals. This is less a settlement than a complete capitulation.”
The former Judge further explained that McMahon “misled” him into believing no such deal was being considered.
And that sounds about right for our State’s Attorney who’s so mired in the Cook County Laquan McDondald shooting trial, he has no clue as to what’s going on in his own office.
Some folks also suspect the Judge was the source for a series of possible McMahon/Maxxam conflicts of interest involving folks related to the old Glenwood School. As a result of that information, Chairman Chris Lauzen publicly accused McMahon of failing in his role as the county board’s attorney as a result of those prior relationships.
McMahon denied any conflicts exist.
This is a case in which I’d have to agree with the State’s Attorney. That same data was forwarded to me, and when you consider the eminently incestuous nature of those Kane County courthouses, any state’s attorney worth their salt would have developed all sorts of legal and/or personal relationships with developers, lawyers, and a slew of politicians along the way.
The truth is those were just garden variety connections with which virtually every countywide elected official must contend. The real three-fold problem is much more serious:
1. McMahon is an absentee boss who’s no longer interested in the job
Again, as a result of the Jason Van Dyke prosecution, McMahon is almost never in the office. When he does show up, sources tell me he goes up the freight elevator, spends a few hours at Peck Road and Rt. 38, and disappears.
Other sources told me that McMahon, always on the lookout for a better gig, never stays in one job for very long, and he’s been State’s Attorney for eight long years. With the Trump administration passing him over for that federal prosecutor position and the Van Dyke prosecution becoming a liability, he’s completely checked out.
2. That leaves Joe Lulves running the Civil Division show unchecked
And as every County Board member will attest, Lulves doesn’t have a clue. He may have been named prosecutor of the year in 2016, but when it comes to civil law, he’s lost. His most recent FOIA request denial to me was riddled with so many inaccuracies and misapplications of the statute you’d think it came from a first-year law student.
During my brief stint at the County Clerk’s office, I quickly noted that Lulves’ theory is to keep the County Board and elected officials in the dark to reduce the impact on his office. Judge Schreiber was right when he said the time for a zealous defense against the rehab center was those first two board votes. But with McMahon constantly in Cook County, Lulves ignored the problem until his boss couldn’t.
The bottom line there is, Lulves’ incompetence has and will continue to cost the Kane County taxpayer copious amounts of cash.
3. The KCSAO won’t fight lawsuits
And that failure falls squarely at McMahon’s feet.
Trust me! I get that settling lawsuits is frequently the most expedient thing to do. But when you settle every last one of ‘em, it’s gonna start costing you even more money because the local attorneys are bound to catch on.
High-ranking Sheriff’s deputies, jail administrators, county board members, and elected officials consistently complain to me about McMahon’s utter unwillingness to fight. The best evidence of this lack of legal backbone is Schreiber’s depiction of the proposed Maxxam settlement. There really is nothing in it for Kane County.
To be fair, that previous ZBA member publicly referring to addicts as “animals who should be locked up” made the State’s Attorney’s legal life far more difficult, but he’ll get no sympathy from me. Welcome to the eternally fascinating herding cats aspect of public service. No one said that state’s attorney gig was going to be easy.
But now it’s too late. Borne of Lulves’ lackadaisical attitude and approach, the rehab center is coming in and taxpayers, through the county’s insurance company, will be underwriting a rather large portion of it.
Until McMahon is either voted out or he starts putting plaintiffs on notice that he’ll actually defend the County, it’s only going to get worse.