Decision on Nygren case months away
A decision could be made in February or March on whether a special investigator should be appointed to look into claims of misconduct made against McHenry County Sheriff Keith Nygren.
A judge Thursday denied a move to dismiss a complaint filed in early 2010 by Nygren's rival, Zane Seipler.
Attorneys are due in court next on Jan. 13 before Judge Thomas A. Meyer, at which time another date in February or March could be set for attorneys to argue their positions and Meyer to make a decision.
Seipler's attorney, Blake Horowitz, said lawyers have completed the procedural issues and action could come soon.
"We can actually open up the door," Horowitz said. "We've always been arguing the issue, but now it's at the end of the line."
Nygren fired Seipler from the sheriff's department in 2008 after Seipler improperly wrote traffic tickets. An arbitrator ruled Seipler should be reinstated and only suspended three days, but Nygren is challenging that decision. Nygren, who then defeated Seipler in the spring 2010 primary to the Republican nomination for sheriff, has not been charged with any criminal wrongdoing.
McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi has removed himself and his office from the matter, citing a conflict of interest.
Seipler wants someone from the Illinois Appellate Prosecutor's Office, which routinely prosecutes cases against police officers, to look into Seipler's allegations of misconduct against Nygren. Horowitz said an attorney from that state office would not cost McHenry taxpayers.
"The issue is felony theft, felony misconduct and misappropriation of funds (to be used for a political campaign)," Horowitz said.
Seipler's initial complaint claimed Nygren unlawfully used his official letterhead and star logo on campaign literature, used his county office to take a photograph with a 2008 state's attorney candidate he was backing and allowed that candidate's campaign fliers in the department's patrol room.
But William Caldwell, an attorney appointed to represent the county in the matter because Nygren is a county employee, said Seipler's claim that Nygren is misusing a sheriff's department star for campaign purposes was a political, not criminal matter.
Judge Meyer said, "It is not my role to determine whether a crime has been committed (by Nygren)."
Rebecca Lee, co-counsel representing Nygren in the lawsuit, also noted a special prosecutor could be costly to taxpayers.
"This county is all too familiar with how out of control a special prosecutor can become," Lee said, referring to the more than $312,000 charged to the county by two special prosecutors for two misconduct trials of Bianchi earlier this year.
Bianchi was found not guilty in both cases, which were stopped halfway through due to lack of evidence and without the defense calling a single witness.