McConnaughay calls for West to step down
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A day after one of Kane County Coroner Chuck West's subordinates accused him of retaliation after a misconduct investigation began in his office, the Kane County Board chairman said West should resign.
Chairman Karen McConnaughay said the lawsuit "reinforces the clear need" for West to step down.
"The people cannot be served by an official who has lost the ability to lead his department and who cannot devote the time required to do his job effectively," McConnaughay said, noting the county board can't remove West from his elected post.
"Only the courts can determine Mr. West's guilt or innocence of the numerous charges brought against him, but it is clear that, under these circumstances, he cannot effectively execute his duties."
In June 2007, items like costume jewelry, a coat, a mannequin head and a beer stein from the home of a dead Carpentersville man were left on a lunch table for about a week at the coroner's office as West unsuccessfully tried to give them away to his subordinates, according to the lawsuit.
But one item — a television — was loaded into the coroner's van by deputy coroners Eric West and Lisa Gilbert directly into Gilbert's car, according to a lawsuit filed this week by Loren Carrera, a deputy coroner.
"Some of the items remained around the office for weeks and months, but slowly the items started disappearing. As of this date, many of these items are missing from the storage room. Their whereabouts is unknown; the mannequin head remains in Charles West's office," according to the suit.
Carrera's lawsuit claims that West — who faces criminal misconduct charges, accused of stealing the television — violated the Illinois Whistleblower Act by retaliating against her.
Carrera also claims that Chuck West and both deputy coroners, his son Eric West and Gilbert, violated the coroner's act by keeping the deceased man's property for themselves and that the three intentionally inflicted emotional distress upon Carrera.
Chuck West is due in court again in May on the felony misconduct charges leveled against him in the summer of 2010 that, if convicted, could result in a maximum five-year prison sentence.
Eric West and Gilbert have not been charged with any criminal wrongdoing.
Messages left for Chuck West and his attorney, Gary Johnson, were not returned.
Carrera, who is still employed at the coroner's office, declined to comment Thursday. Her attorney, Nils von Keudell, could not immediately be reached.
Carrera's lawsuit recounted steps she took to have authorities investigate and provided a detailed account of Chuck West's reaction and retaliation:
• On Aug. 4, 2009, after an investigator from the Kane County state's attorney's office interviewed several people in the office, West came up to Carrera in a "menacing manner," put the investigator's card inches from Carrera's face, and said, "Do you know who this is? Have you been talking to him?" A frightened Carrera replied "No," and West said, "Someone's been talking to him and I am going to find out who."
• On July 6, 2010, after West was charged, he held a meeting about a mock plane crash and said whoever started the investigation must really hate him and added, "If they are going to play that game, then I am going to keep this case in court for the whole two years left on my term."
• West, according the suit, changed the lock on his door, changed office policies and gradually gave less responsibility to Carrera, who was second in command.
• West began falling asleep in the offices of his subordinates while they were working, including 15 times in Carrera's office between July 2009 and November 2010. West also is accused of urinating on Carrera's office chair on Oct. 1, 2010.
• Both Chuck West and Eric West, along with Gilbert, brought their dogs to the office during the day so often that the city of Geneva told Chuck West to desist in October 2010.
Kane County Sheriff Pat Perez, whose office was initially contacted by Carrera to investigate, had no comment on the case.
An initial hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for June 16.
Carrera seeks damages of more than $50,000, including back pay with interest, attorney fees and other damages.
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