Cops: Indicted coroner said he'd 'find out who had been talking to who'
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Soon after Kane County Coroner Chuck West learned he was under investigation for official misconduct, he gathered his staff and told them he was going to find out who reported him to the authorities, according to newly released police reports.
The reports say West told employees he would review their phone records to "find out who had been talking to who" and asked that his accuser come forward.
"Chuck told them he has an opportunity to face the person who made the allegations, and he would be able to sue them for defamation of character for trying to ruin his name," one witness told police. "Chuck wanted that person to come forward and get it straightened out with him."
Attorney Gary Johnson, who is representing West, had no comment Wednesday.
The police reports taken by the Kane County sheriff's department in August and September of 2009 were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request filed last week after a grand jury indicted West on five counts of felony official misconduct. The reports do not center on the official misconduct case but a staff complaint that West may have violated the Whistleblower Act by intimidating employees.
Sheriff's Lt. Pat Gengler said Wednesday the investigation is now closed, and findings have been turned over to Charles Colburn, a special prosecutor assigned to West's criminal case.
Colburn said he could not comment on whether the information was a factor in West's indictment or how it might play into his prosecution.
"All I can say at this point is, the charges we have on file now are the charges we're able to prove," he said.
The reports say Kane County State's Attorney John Barsanti informed West in a phone call of the criminal investigation and suggested he get a lawyer.
Later, on Aug. 4, 2009, West confronted one employee by holding up a police investigator's business card to the employee's face and asking if the staff member "knew who this guy was," the reports say. Two days later, he called the staff meeting where he explained he was under investigation and said he intended to review all employee phone records for the prior three months, according to the reports.
Police said they contacted the county's information technology office, which confirmed West's office sought land line and cell phone records but said the request was never fulfilled and West's office never followed up.
West, 67, of Elgin, is scheduled to make his first court appearance Thursday in front of Judge James Hallock, who is expected to set bond. If convicted of official misconduct, a felony, West faces probation or the possibility of two to five years in prison.
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