Incompetence is a better explanation than conspiracy in most human activity. – Journalist Peter Bergen
Considering all the twists and turns involved in this one, let’s get right to the point!
It starts with Tim Morgan making the cut along with two other newcomers in the April Campton Hills trustee race. But just when he was about to be sworn into office, Tim received a call from Kane County State’s Attorney Jamie Mosser herself. You see, like so many of us, Tim made a serious mistake in his younger days when he was convicted of felony drunk driving in Michigan in 2002.
And the abundantly unclear Illinois statute states that:
A person is not eligible to take the oath of office for a municipal office if that person [hasn’t paid their taxes] or has been convicted in any court located in the United States of any infamous crime, bribery, perjury, or other felony, unless such person is again restored to his or her rights of citizenship.
Considering the frequency with which they occur, I’d hardly call any form of a DUI an “infamous” crime, but perhaps that’s just me.
So, after a rather strange family member ratted Morgan out, Mosser personally warned him that, should he attempt to take office, she’d have him removed shortly thereafter. Then she sent a missive to the rest of the Campton Hills village board explaining that Morgan was ineligible to serve, insinuating that she would prosecute anyone who tried to swear him in.
As you might imagine, that bizarre turn of events freaked Tim out a bit because most of us don’t get personal calls from our state’s attorney. I’m sure Mosser reached out herself because her minions were afraid I’d make public mincemeat out of them for “only following orders,” which is exactly what I would’ve done. And I would’ve done it because there are innumerable issues with the State’s Attorney’s horrifically bad decision.
The first and foremost is Mosser issued an ill-advised robocall for the candidate slate that Morgan and his compatriots beat. That means she should’ve recused herself from this possibility, but she didn’t which makes her effort to bar him from office appear to be a textbook case of petty political vengeance.
And it’s not a rookie mistake, either.
When I was Mosser’s campaign manager, I threatened to walk away unless she stopped taking photographs with questionable Democrats and endorsing candidates. I tried to explain that state’s attorneys, judges, and sheriffs must remain above the electoral fray for all of the obvious conflict of interest reasons, not the least of which is she might have to arrest one of ‘em someday. (Didn’t that just happen?)
Then that photo and/or endorsement wouldn’t look very good, would it?
I’m not sure if Mosser’s malfeasance rises to the level of an ARDC complaint, but the court of public opinion is frequently far more brutal than any regulatory agency.
The second, and equally egregious issue, is Mosser’s legal theory is dead wrong! But that didn’t stop former state’s attorney Joe McMahon of Geneva’s Griffin, Williams, McMahon, and Walsh from buying into it hook, line and sinker.
After Morgan made the mistake of hiring the former Kane County state’s attorney, failing to perform any reasonable due diligence, McMahon threw up his hands, said Mosser was right, unilaterally declared a Michigan DUI couldn’t be expunged, and then he told Morgan there was nothing he could do but walk away.
I’m wondering if Joe ever gets tired of being wrong because there’s some serious question about that potential expungement a Michigan attorney will be answering shortly. But more to the point, neither Mosser nor McMahon took the time to truly understand the statute and current Illinois precedent.
But I did – with a little help from the Chicago Tribune and more than a little help from friend and crack attorney Jeff Meyer. Please note the line in the law stipulating a felon can’t serve on a municipal board “unless such person is again restored to his or her rights of citizenship,” because that’s the key phrase.
Most of us believe a convicted felon permanently loses their right to vote, but as the Trib pointed out in a series of recent reports, that’s not true. Per Illinois law, if a felon successfully completes their sentence – jail time, parole, and/or probation – their “rights of citizenship,” or voting rights, are restored. And if that privilege is restored, then, by definition, so is their right to hold office.
I ran that statutory contention by the aforementioned Mr. Meyer who further explained:
Civil rights, or “citizenship” can be restored at the completion of a sentence without necessarily requiring expungement. Under Illinois law, this is true with voting rights, some firearm possession rights, or even the right to hold a Constitutional office. It’s a unique fact pattern, but if the trustee elect’s right to hold office or other civil rights were restored under Michigan law, the bar to taking municipal office in this case may be overcome.
A “Constitutional office” is one set forth by the Illinois Constitution including governor, comptroller, treasurer, county clerk, and county sheriff. And if those lofty potential candidates are automatically “rehabilitated” upon completion of their sentence, then the same absolution clearly applies to a lowly village trustee.
A retired judge similarly said I came up with “a very compelling argument.”
But leave it to Mosser to get it wrong and McMahon to double down on it making her look good by comparison. If a second-rate columnist can come up with the correct legal argument, then what does that say about our dynamic legal duo? It certainly doesn’t speak well of the Griffin Williams law firm, either.
Since justice is paramount, I reached out to Griffin Williams managing partner Pat Griffin to explain how they might better represent their client, but the silence was deafening. So now, instead of having a private conversation, it’s become a very public discussion. Some people seem to insist on making bad decisions.
I hope Pat and Joe have the moral fiber to return Morgan’s legal fees. They certainly didn’t earn them.
What the typically timid state’s attorney should’ve done was instruct the complainant to file a “quo warranto,” a legal device used to determine a candidate’s eligibility for public office that goes straight before a judge.
That complaint would’ve gone to Judge Kevin Busch, who may be a miserable excuse for a human being, but he has a great legal mind and he would’ve ruled correctly. That would’ve put this stupidity to bed once and for all. But now it’s about to turn into a legal and public relations quagmire because I’m not about to let go of it anytime soon, and neither is Mr. Morgan.
Aside from all of that, isn’t rehabilitation supposed to be the very basis upon which the criminal justice system was founded? And doesn’t the fact that Mr. Morgan hasn’t had as much as a parking ticket since his 2002 mistake say something about his character? As attorney Meyer also noted, “Not all crimes are created equal and not all crimes should hang a scarlet letter on you for the rest of your life.”
Shame on you Ms. Mosser for abandoning your principles and using your office to extract what amounts to nothing more than political retribution. Remember, we discussed your more liberal leanings at length before I agreed to run your campaign, so we both know exactly what I’m talking about.
Lastly, as far as serving as a trustee in that preposterously perilous proposition known as Campton Hills, I would think that letting Morgan retain that seat would be a far greater punishment than any potential DUI sentence.
With the 2024 campaign season rapidly approaching, it’s time to correct my Mosser mistake. That means I’m looking for a reasonable Republican State’s Attorney candidate with a sense of justice and a heart. That may be the equivalent of searching for Bigfoot, but hope springs eternal, right?
The deal is I’ll manage that candidate’s campaign at the friends and family rate, and since I’m the one who mathematically got Ms. Mosser elected, I know exactly how to beat her. It’s not terribly difficult to find me.