Quick Hits – It’s nice work, if you can get it!

Imagine if you saw a classified ad that looked something like this:

Wanted! Elected and appointed public officials. Minimal experience required. Perks include six-figure salary, Cadillac benefits package, and no need to show up on a regular basis.

You’d probably leap at the opportunity. I know I would!

Of course, we’ve all heard about those infamous Second City ghost payrollers, but this is a rare case where Kane County beats the pants off our scurrilous metropolitan counterparts because it’s the bosses who never manage to show up out here!

Take that Cook County!

So, without further ado, let’s examine the top three Kane County failing-to-show-up-for-work offenders in ascending order:

3. State’s Attorney Joe McMahon

As we’ve already covered, when Joe does manage to show up at the Judicial Center, he takes the freight elevator up to his office, spends all of two hours behind a closed door, and then he disappears via the same route. When he actually does put in the expected time, it’s for the citizens of Cook County and not the people who actually elected him.

And the fallout from his absentee leadership is becoming more and more apparent.


The morale in the criminal division is so bad that most of the KCSAO’s best people have already left. New prosecutors are thrown to wolves with virtually no training and somehow expected to succeed. “Discretion” has become a dirty word, and their definition of “justice” is letting the judges sort everything out.

But as bad as those folks are, the civil division is far worse. While McMahon was off prosecuting Laquan McDonald shooter Jason Van Dyke, Joe Lulves completely blew the opportunity to wring any kind of meaningful concessions from the incoming Maxxam Partners Campton Hills rehab center.

Then they turned around and successfully sued the County to the tune of doubling our lawsuit insurance.

Lulves also failed to accurately review the most recent union contracts which left the Chairman, the County Board, and the taxpayers twisting in the wind. Can you guess who’ll be paying for those two major lapses.

I could continue but I’m sure you get the idea by now. Meanwhile, the citizens of Kane County get to enjoy the rare privilege of paying McMahon $166,508 a year to train for triathlons.


2. Circuit Clerk Tom Hartwell

Borne of an entitlement mentality the size of Montana, Tom decided his $90,000 salary plus to-die-for benefits weren’t nearly enough, and after his attempts to get a raise and get elected judge failed, he went back to practicing law while Kristy Sharpness runs the Circuit Clerk’s office.

And she does a great job, too! But that begs the question, then why do we need Tom Hartwell?


Considering what a disaster the new court database implantation turned into – I’ve never heard so many complaints from attorneys, paralegals and judges – I’m thinking the boss’s regular presence might’ve made a difference.

But you can count on death, taxes, and Tom Hartwell running for the next judicial opening on the Kane County taxpayer’s dime.


1. Public Defender Kelli Childress

This one particularly pains me. Not only do I harbor a soft spot for public defenders everywhere, but I’ve previously extolled Ms. Childress’ vast litigatory virtue. The problem is, when it comes to not showing up at the office, she’s the Kane County queen by a longshot.

I suppose everybody has to be good at something!

Childress 2

Kelli Childress

With the PD’s office being FOIA-proof, I turned to some folks who regularly toil in the Judicial Center and they said they haven’t seen her for at least six months. Never the shy one, Childress loves to post her tropical adventures on social media. Apparently her current jaunt involves Puerto Vallarta.

It must be nice to be paid 150 grand a year to be on a perpetual vacation.

Just like it is with the Circuit Clerk, Brenda Willett is the one who runs the PD’s office and she does an exceptional job of keeping a very difficult prospect together. So, why not make her Public Defender? She’s already doing it!

I reached out to Ms. Childress and the PD’s office for some sort of explanation, but none was forthcoming. How do you excuse the inexcusable?

Though I have to say, the irony and hypocrisy of our Kane County judges, few of whom ever work a full day, voting out a PD for failing to show up certainly isn’t lost on me. It will be fascinating to see what happens there.


I would’ve included Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham on the list, but that office does far better when he’s not there, so, we’ll just let that one go.

But there you have it! The top three Kane County absentee bosses. Like I said, it must be nice!

12 thoughts on “Quick Hits – It’s nice work, if you can get it!

  1. I know both Tom Hartwell and Joe McMahon Tom works a lot of hours in particular when he has to be out of the office for meetings. In addition, he also works after hours and weekends.Why wouldn’t he run for Judge every attorney would love the position and the pay is good.

    Joe Mcmahon got pulled into the Van Dyke matter worked a tremendous number of hours and is still involved because of the judge’s sentence. If the people on his staff don’t like their jobs then quit I know a lot of young Lawyers who would love to work for Joe. Even I would like to work for Joe in his office is he taking applications..

  2. Joe got pulled in because he wanted to be pulled in. And the highest aspirations of a state attorney and I do not mean the State Attorney but any prosecutor is to do justice not do conviction. Anyway he could have refused but if he thought office in good hands and doing a public service why not. And I carry no brief for him. As to PD I sorta well actually do have knowledge of that job. God bless them all. Will rely on Jeff for work time. But a great challenging and worth while job. Everyone hates lawyers till they need one. As to rest I am so old and cynical what do you expect. Maybe 15% vote so 85% are happy

  3. well I guess I know who’s campaigns you won’t be working on in the next election! Are these the people your “boss” Chris Lauzen will be targeting? Good job Jeff

  4. Jeff,

    1. Chris Lauzen and Tom Hartwell are friends. The Chairman will not work against him.

    2. The Public Defender serves at the behest of the judges. They are not an elected official and the Chairman has no say in that hiring or firing.

    3. The current Chairman and State’s Attorney have been going at each other looooonnnnng before I entered the fray.

    Thank you for playing, please try again!

  5. Has there been anyone to challenge Joe McMahon for the State’s Attorney office for the coming 2020 election?

    • John,

      I believe someone will announce a run against McMahon soon!

      • The norm for state’s attorneys lately, especially in Kane County, is late in their 2nd elected term, they normally receive an appointment to an open circuit judgeship. McMahon is in the middle of his 2nd elected term, so his judicial appointment should be coming between now and year-end.

        The last 2-term state’s attorney to seek a 3rd term lost in the primary back in 2000. No incumbent KCSA has sought a 3rd term since.

        Will both a qualified Republican and a Democrat run for KCSA next year?

      • Dear Former,

        I have heard that, should McMahon not run, Bill Engerman wants to give it a shot, but he has more skeletons in his closet than I do.

        And I’m pretty much convinced a Democrat will run against him as well. If the rumors are true, she’s a quality candidate.


  6. No such thing as qualified Democrat (kidding Democrats coming out of woodwork). Better question is when will Bob Thomas step down from Supreme Court setting up a contest between Burkett And others in appellate court thus leaving opening on appellate bench for McMahon or more likely Bob Thomas’s nephew the chief judge of DuPage Dan Guerin. Never overlook nepotism. Although Dan a great guy and good judge but nice to have a Supreme Court judge in your side

    • Concerning Democrats attempting to win KCSA or circuit court clerk, you have the Steffen brothers, John and Bob, from Elgin who could be possible Democratic candidates in either office. John won a 4th term on the Elgin City Council earlier this year. Brother Bob ran unsuccessfully for KCSA in 2000, and came close to winning the race, and he has KCSAO office experience. Given the Democrats’ political muscle flexing lately, maybe one of those 2 will run. I’m sure there are others.

      You are right about Bob Thomas. His 2nd 10-year term will be up next year, so if he plans to retire after this term, he’ll need to announce it in the next few months.

      Speaking of kickers-turned-politicians (Bob Thomas), another former kicker, a college walk-on at Notre Dame in the ’80s, announced late last month he’s running as a Republican for Congress in the 14th district. Ted Gradel’s slogan is classic, “I kicked footballs in college, I’ll kick tails in Congress!”

      Bob Thomas missed that kind of a quote when he ran and won in 2000. Given how rough that 3-way primary was, Thomas should have used something like that, but won anyway.

    • Jim,

      If the rumors are correct, this Democrat is quite qualified.

      As far as the IL Supreme Court goes, you still have to run for that seat and McMahon, if he becomes a judge, which is looking more and more doubtful, has never run a contested election campaign in his life. So, I doubt if he could win.

      Similarly, Dan would have to run for that office and most judges have no clue about running a campaign. Nevertheless, an open Supreme Court seat will be a fascinating proposition!


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