I realize I’m risking the same fate I regularly accuse former Elgin City Councilman John Prigge of courting by doing yet another negative piece on our Kane County state’s attorney. But while I’m grateful to see the Daily Herald and Tribune finally pick up on the immense Kane County taxpayer cost for underwriting the Jason Van Dyke prosecution, I feel compelled to answer Joe McMahon’s “arguments” for taking that appointment in the first place.
But before we continue, please note that I’ve been covering McMahon’s involvement in the Laquan McDonald murder for over a year. So, while it’s also gratifying to see Chairman Chris Lauzen take a public taxpayer stand, I’ve been on this one for quite some time.
With that out of the way, let’s move on to McMahon’s faulty reasoning:
1. There’s no net cost to Kane County taxpayers
If this was Politifact I’d rate that statement as “pants on fire!” While it’s true that KC taxpayers aren’t coughing up any more cash than they already are, unless they’ve solved the quantum problem, McMahon and his top lieutenants can’t work for Cook and Kane County at the same time.
To make matters worse, McMahon has publicly bragged about his team putting “13- to 14-hour days” into the Van Dyke trial. So, not only are the taxpayers getting no benefit from their top prosecutors, but lower-level staffers have to pick up the slack, which means those already overworked folks will be much more likely to make mistakes.
To be more specific, when you add up McMahon’s, Jody Gleaon’s, Joe Cullen’s, Dan Weiler’s and Greg Sams’ annual compensation, it comes to $708,000 a year. That means Kane County taxpayers are underwriting a Cook County prosecution to the tune of $60,000 a month.
2. Lauzen supported a law that allows for special prosecutions
This is McMahon’s most specious contention. He argues that, when Lauzen was a state senator, he voted for a law that allowed for these kinds of special prosecutions. To quote the great philosopher Dick Cheney, “So what?” The fact that you can do something doesn’t necessarily mean you have to or should do it.
I’m well within my legal rights to ride my road bike down the middle of Randall Road at rush hour, but you won’t see me doing it anytime soon because it’s a really bad idea.
Trying to shift the blame to a former state senator whose vote was immaterial to a law’s passage is the worst kind of pretzel logic and far more than disingenuous.
3. He had to take the case
McMahon hasn’t come right out and said it, but on more than one press occasion he’s intimated that Cook County came directly to him and, thus, he had no choice but to take the case. The truth is, while every other collar county state’s attorney hid under their desk when that call came, McMahon sought the appointment out.
Even his good friends tell me that Joe never lasts long at any job because he’s always looking for that next step up the ladder. And he thought the press from the Van Dyke prosecution would launch him into a federal prosecutor position or an attorney general run, so he volunteered to do it.
But just like one shouldn’t use their hose to put out the neighbor’s fire when their own house is burning, McMahon should’ve let special prosecutions go until his own house was in order. And it’s far from it.
4. The only one criticizing him is the Chairman
McMahon continues to repeat that line, but it’s only partially correct. The Chairman may be the only one who’s publicly calling him out, but as a result of McMahon’s reputation for retaliating against anyone who dares to criticize him, I’m privy to a slew of private complaints from board members and other elected officials who feel they’ve been consistently shortchanged by the KCSAO.
And those grievances have tripled since the county board was forced to sign off on the Maxxam Partners’ Campton Hills rehab center lawsuit settlement due to the lack of any real KCSAO legal defense.
It’s not that I think Joe’s lying, he’s always been oblivious to the political realities of his job. And those realities include the majority of local politicians will slap you on the back and smile as they talk all kinds shit behind it.
So, what they say to your face is immaterial.
Since neither you nor I have time for another 1,500-word column, we will continue this conversation on Wednesday.