No free legal advice for former official in DuPage forest preserve theft
Mark McDonald will have to hire his own attorney to fight theft and corruption charges after the former DuPage County Forest Preserve District administrator was denied a taxpayer-funded lawyer Wednesday.
McDonald, 53, of Wheaton, asked Judge Blanche Hill Fawell for a public defender because of "insufficient funds" to continue paying his private defense team.
Fawell allowed McDonald's attorneys to withdraw but refused to appoint free counsel. She said McDonald managed to post $20,000 cash to bond out of jail and isn't eligible for a public defender under statutory income requirements.
"With that much cash, there's no way on Earth," Fawell said. "On your income alone, you don't qualify."
The judge said she could eventually release up to $18,000 of the bond to cover McDonald's legal costs. McDonald said he didn't know that money was available.
According to prosecutors, he's already taken more than his fair share off the tax rolls.
McDonald is accused of running a $150,000 theft scheme while acting as the forest preserve district's information technology director.
Over a six-year span, prosecutors said, he and former IT department head David Tepper, 49, of River Forest, used a company they owned to quietly bill the district for goods and services never received. They're also accused of accepting kickbacks while steering work to a Glendale Heights contractor who now faces charges.
Both McDonald and Tepper have pleaded not guilty and could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted. They return to court Feb. 21.