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updated: 4/13/2011 5:41 AM

Questions linger about county's role in coroner's civil defense

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The Kane County state's attorney's office is reviewing whether it has a conflict of interest in defending Coroner Chuck West in a lawsuit brought by his former second-in-command that he retaliated because she blew the whistle on a missing television that resulted in criminal misconduct charges.

State's Attorney Joe McMahon said his office is, by statute, required to represent West, who along with two deputy coroners, is being sued by Loren Carrera.

McMahon said the "conflict analysis" will be done in about two weeks; some potential areas of conflict could be that prosecutors interviewed Carrera as part of the criminal investigation.

"It's a complex matter," McMahon said, noting that his office works for all Kane County taxpayers, who could be on the hook for damages award in the case. "Absent some legal conflict, we're going to represent the defendants in the case."

West faces felony misconduct charges that he took a television from a dead Carpentersville man's home. If convicted, he could be sentenced to anywhere from probation to five years in prison.

He is due again in court in May and a special prosecutor, Charles Colburn of the Illinois Appellate Prosecutors Office, has been called in to handle the case.

Carrera, who is still employed by the office, filed a civil suit in late March seeking more than $50,000 in damages against West and Deputy Coroners Lisa Gilbert and Eric West, who is West's son.

The case is due for a June 17 hearing.

McMahon said he is seeking opinions from a law firm that specializes in legal ethics. He said if his office has a conflict, he'll submit a motion to withdraw from the case and a new attorney likely will be appointed to defend the trio.

"My belief is if there is a conflict with one, there's a conflict with all three," McMahon said.