The suburbs grabbed national attention on several fronts in 2015, from the downfall of Plano favorite son Dennis Hastert to the sensational case of a Fox Lake police lieutenant who staged his suicide to look like murder.
But those weren't the only surprising twists among the top suburban stories of 2015. Here's a recap, and for more, turn to Neighbor.
Fall from grace
Fox Lake police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz was found shot dead in a swampy area of the village the morning of Sept. 1, just minutes after he had radioed a vague description about chasing three men. His death ignited an intense manhunt by multiple police agencies and an outpouring of community support. "GI Joe" was hailed as a hero and his death was national news. Eventually, the facade unraveled. Two months later, the death was ruled a suicide and authorities determined the scene was staged and he had stolen money. George Filenko, commander of the task force investigating the death, said "Gliniewicz committed the ultimate betrayal."
Former U.S., House Speaker Dennis Hastert pleaded guilty in October to violating federal banking laws. Just days later he suffered a stroke that has kept him hospitalized for weeks. The details of the case haven't been revealed in court, though prosecutors hinted that might happen at Hastert's sentencing set for February. But The Associated Press reported Hastert was making payments to silence allegations of sexual misconduct while Hastert was a teacher and coach at Yorkville High School.
College at war
A year ago, College of DuPage President Robert Breuder was battling Trustee Kathy Hamilton over the school's spending practices. Then, in January, the COD board approved a $762,868 buyout of Breuder's contract, sparking outrage from residents, students and faculty members as well as state and federal investigations of the college. The controversy paved the way for Hamilton to gain control of the board by getting three allies elected. But after implementing a series of changes that include firing Breuder and repealing his severance deal, Hamilton resigned 10 days ago, leaving the board in chaos. Now, a group of deeply divided trustees must figure out how to come together and address issues raised by the Higher Learning Commission, which has placed the school on two years' probation.
In a state
Gov. Bruce Rauner's inauguration a few days into the new year gave Republicans power at the Capitol like they hadn't seen in a dozen years. But no full Illinois budget has been adopted since as he battles with top Democrats over a handful of major proposals that he sees as progress and change and they see as divisive and anti-worker. In the meantime, court orders keep the state paying out much of its money -- more than it can afford to. And those not covered in court cases have to keep waiting for funds, raising questions about the future of mental health services, college budgets and other programs. The year's standoff set the stage for potentially brutal 2016 election contests for seats at the Capitol, races that have already begun.
Officials in Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 engaged in a high-stakes battle with the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights over the level of access a transgender student should have to a girls locker room, with pressure coming from the possible loss of $6 million in federal funds, a divided community of parents and students, and American Civil Liberties Union attorneys representing the student. School officials were willing to grant more access than some parents and students wanted, but not as much as the OCR and some other parents and students wanted. The school board and the OCR signed off on a compromise, only to have it almost blow up when the two sides read entirely different meanings into what was called for. They eventually settled their differences, but some parents are calling for school board members who backed the agreement to resign. The agreement allows the student access to a girls locker room with a separate changing area. "We are installing privacy curtains in our locker rooms, with the assurance that this student will use them," school board President Mucia Burke said.
Death of a leader
The head of the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, Cardinal Francis George, was laid to rest in April next to his parents, Francis and Julia, and maternal grandmother, Lucy McCarthy, at All Saints Cemetery in Des Plaines after a funeral Mass at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago. He died at age 78 of kidney cancer. Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Blase Cupich to lead Catholics in Cook and Lake counties.
Discord at the top
It was a combative year in Kane County with Sheriff Don Kramer and Coroner Rob Russell at odds with the county board and Chairman Chris Lauzen. Kramer's decision to cancel a contract to house federal inmates led the board to cut his budget to reflect the lost revenue. Russell spent much of the year embroiled in a financial disagreement after auditor Terry Hunt withheld payment on what some county board members described as promotional items for the coroner's office. Russell used a county credit card to pay the debt but the county's finance committee objected. Russell tried to end the debate by writing a personal check for the credit card charges.
After only 10 documented measles cases over five years in Illinois, the highly contagious disease sickened 13 infants too young to have received the vaccine at KinderCare Learning Center in Palatine. Fifteen local cases arose before the end of the outbreak. A new law requires day care workers to be immunized or show they're immune to measles, tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.