The original plan was to continue with our recent rehab center approving County Board meeting theme, and we will to some degree, but there have been new developments that clearly bear mentioning.
When we last left off, by a 14-10 vote, the Kane County Board finally approved the Maxxam Partners drug rehab center set to go in the vacant Glenwood School building adjacent to the village of Campton Hills.
We covered just how acrimonious that assembly became, stopping short of explain how the board turned on State’s Attorney Joe McMahon for failing to effectively fight Maxxam and their eventual $68 million discrimination lawsuit.
In what could’ve been a psychological seminar on displaced aggression, the public speakers attacked the board; the board attacked the chairman and each other; the chairman attacked the state’s attorney, and then the board followed suit.
Though they were correct in criticizing the lack of any real KCSAO defense against the rehab center, that wasn’t the time or place to do it. It got so bad that board member Kurt Kojzarek had to stand up and remind his angry compatriots that they were essentially asking McMahon to provide legal advice in front of opposing counsel.
And that’s never a good idea. Nor is castigating your attorney – and McMahon is the board’s attorney – in public. It’s not that McMahon didn’t deserve the barrage, but those county commissioners might’ve considered that they’ll need McMahon’s help with the next legal battle
McMahon’s general response was he discussed those very issues in various executive sessions and regularly emailed the board in that regard. But that’s not nearly enough! And the fact our State’s Attorney doesn’t understand how to effectively communicate with a governing body is turning into his fatal flaw.
First, considering the slew of emails they already get, I’d never count on the board reading anything I sent them. And second, nobody listens in those closed door executive sessions! They’re too busy arguing and/or formulating the pearls of wisdom they’ll drop on their peers when it’s their turn to speak.
And if I have to put the onus on a part-time board member or the county’s defense attorney for the failure to understand a complex legal process, you know who’s gonna get the blame.
Considering the stakes involved, McMahon should’ve tabbed Civil Division attorney, Erin Brady, a rare combination of a great legal mind with an amazing capacity to deal with politicians, to hold the Board’s hand every step of the Maxxam way.
He should’ve had her attend that original Zoning Board of Appeals meeting that sent this whole thing teetering off the precipice, too.
Had McMahon paid any attention to the zoning approval process early on, the County could’ve wrangled some real concessions from Maxxam, rather than finally have to face down what’s become a complete capitulation. A little foresight is the difference between a mediocre state’s attorney and a good one.
But because he didn’t do his job, the sparks really flew at Thursday’s Judicial and Public Safety committee gathering which saw Chairman Chris Lauzen and McMahon go toe-to-toe on a number of smoldering resentments.
In his opening volley, Lauzen demanded that McMahon quantify the taxpayer cost for diverting so many KCSAO resources to the Laquan McDonald murder trial.
McMahon, again, claimed he was “appointed” to the case, which while technically true, is a truly disingenuous statement. Six separate sources said that, while other area state’s attorney’s locked themselves in the bathroom to avoid getting’ the nod, McMahon actually sought out the appointment to raiser his profile and pad his resume.
And his contention there was “no increase in costs” to Kane County is equally disingenuous, because the 20 prosecutors working on the Van Dyke prosecution can’t possibly do that and work on behalf of the Kane County taxpayer at the same.
When Lauzen insisted on a specific accounting of hours spent, McMahon refused declaring, “We aren’t doing that on this case. And we don’t intend to. How I run my office is absolutely none of your business.”
That defense is also technically true, but it would carry a lot more weight if McMahon actually ran his office instead of handing it off to subpar subordinates who only seem to make things worse.
McMahon also shot back with a law Lauzen supported as a State Senator that allows for special prosecutors to be appointed, but prohibits them from charging the other county for their services.
That’s also true, but for that argument to work, one must assume that McMahon had no choice but to take that appointment. The truth is, especially after telling the Board he needs more prosecutors, he could have, and should have, turned it down.
I could continue to describe those fascinating festivities, but as much as it pains me to say this, the Daily Herald’s Jim Fuller did a great job of covering the fracas, so we’ll leave it there and move on.
Though I would’ve advised the chairman not to attack the county’s attorney in public – it’s only gonna make matters worse – it’s gratifying to see the board finally catch on to the fact that Joe McMahon doesn’t do his job. I can’t tell you how many local attorneys and former KCSAO staffers have come to me with the same complaint.
Joe was dead on about one thing, however. When the Chairman demanded to know, “Who checks the state’s attorney’s work and balances your exercise of power when people are dissatisfied? Where do we go when we are displeased with the state’s attorney?”
McMahon correctly replied that “The people of Kane County can express their support or displeasure for me any time my name is on an election ballot.” I’m gonna ask you to remember that statement in 2020 Kane County voters!