Embattled Kane County Coroner Chuck West has no intention of resigning after he was indicted Tuesday on felony misconduct charges.
"He plans on staying on the job," West's defense attorney, Gary Johnson, said.
A grand jury charged West with five counts of official misconduct, accusing him in the May 2007 theft of a 24-inch television from a dead man's home in Carpentersville while acting in his official role as coroner.
According to the indictment, West "intentionally and recklessly" allowed the Magnavox television to be taken "with the intent to obtain a personal advantage for another."
Special Prosecutor Charles Colburn, who is handling the case to avoid a conflict of interest in the state's attorney's office, which typically represents county employees, would not elaborate on the circumstances. But numerous sources have told the Daily Herald on condition of anonymity that the TV ended up at the home of two deputy coroners who live together, one of whom is West's son.
"It's a serious offense," Colburn said. "Official misconduct is a violation of the public trust."
West, who faces two to five years in prison or probation if convicted, would not answer questions about the indictment Tuesday, but his attorney described it as "much ado about nothing."
"It's a little bit like opening up Al Capone's vault," Johnson said.
West, 67, of Elgin, was first elected coroner in 2000 and is currently in his third term, which expires in late 2012. He has no prior criminal history in Kane County, according to court records.
On Tuesday, Judge James C. Hallock issued a summons ordering West to appear in court May 27, when his bond will be set.
Colburn said it's possible that West will be released on his own recognizance because he hasn't demonstrated "a likelihood of flight, nor a public safety risk," which are the same reasons he wasn't taken into custody Tuesday.
Whether West remains in office is "purely his decision," said Kane County Board Attorney Ken Shepro.
"The county board has no ability to suspend or replace the coroner," he said. "And there's no state law provision that appears to require him to step aside under the circumstances."
Johnson said he intends to ask the county to fund West's defense since he is a county employee, and the charges stem from his duties as a county official.
For that to happen, Shepro said, the state's attorney's office would have to appoint West's attorney as a special assistant. He declined to comment on whether that's likely.
"Any request of that nature would have to be considered by the state's attorney," he said.
West, a Republican and former paramedic, admitted in a March interview to allowing two deputies to remove a television from the Carpentersville home, but said that was due to a lack of storage space at his county office.
"It wasn't hidden," West said then. "It hadn't been stolen."
Mike Kenyon, a county board member and chairman of the Kane County GOP, declined to comment on the allegations, besides saying West will "get his day in court."
He laughed, however, when asked about the possibility of the county funding West's defense. That matter, he said, would be subject to discussions with the county's legal team.
"With money being tight, why should we pay for something he did?" Kenyon said. "This could be expensive."