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updated: 4/11/2012 4:14 PM

Kane County coroner's civil lawsuit defense coming into focus

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  • Chuck West

    Chuck West


The criminal trial of embattled Kane County Coroner Chuck West on felony misconduct charges that he allowed a television to be taken from a dead man's home is several months away.

Recent filings in the civil case that West retaliated against a whistle-blower in his office reveal some legal strategy: His attorneys argue the state's Human Rights Commission has jurisdiction over the matter and that state law provides West with civil immunity as a public employee.

Loren Carrera, West's former second in command, filed her lawsuit in March 2011, alleging that West had retaliated against her in summer 2010 after she reported that West's employees took the television on West's watch.

West's attorneys contend the matter should have been brought to the Human Rights Commission instead.

West's attorneys also say that state law mandates a public employee determining a policy is "not liable for an injury resulting from his act or omission in determining policy when acting in the exercise of such discretion even though abused."

"The decision of Charles West as Kane County Coroner to determine the duties and responsibilities of his employees are both a making of policy choice and the exercise of discretion," wrote defense attorney Michael Lenert in court filings.

Lenert declined to comment on the case; Nils von Keudell, who is Carerra's attorney, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Both sides are due in court on Tuesday.

West also is due in court April 18 on the criminal charges, felonies that carry a prison term of two to five years if convicted. Probation also is an option.

The case recently was assigned to Judge John McAdams. No trial date has been set.

West, 69, of Elgin, is not seeking another term as coroner.

Republican Bob Russell and Democrat Tao Martinez will square off for a four-year term in November.

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