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Attorney: Halpin lawsuit 'politically motivated'

Published: Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

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Grundy County Board member Frank Halpin’s attorney claims the complaint against his client is “politically motivated.”

“Mr. Halpin has done nothing wrong,” attorney Mark Rigazio said. “He has followed the protocol that was set in place for years dictating the per diem of Grundy County Board members, as have other members current and former of the Grundy County Board.”

Rigazio, of Morris, and attorney Jeff Tomczak of Joilet are representing Halpin.

The Grundy County Board filed a lawsuit against Halpin last week. In March, the County Board voted to launch an investigation through the Kendall County State’s Attorney’s Office into whether the county should sue Halpin.

The Kendall office had to handle the suit because the Grundy County State’s Attorney’s Office represents the County Board and all of its members and, therefore, cannot file suit for the board.

This lawsuit follows allegations first raised by current board Vice Chairman David Welter more than two years ago. At that time, Welter – based on an investigation he did prior to being elected to the board – accused Halpin of receiving reimbursements for meetings he either did not attend or that never took place.

Also in March, it was decided no criminal action could be taken against Halpin.

Appellate prosecutor Charles Colburn, who had been appointed to investigate any criminal acts by Halpin, said there were no criminal charges discovered.

“As I previously verbally indicated to your Honor, following a long and intensive investigation by the agency and assisted by the Illinois State Police, we have determined that no prosecutable criminal activity has been discovered,” the letter states to the judge.

The letter also said it was determined that at least one board member had received funds in excess of what should have been received.

“However,” the letter states, “it has also been determined that through errors and omissions at least one and perhaps more county board members have received funds in excess of those that should have been received. These funds are in excess of $5,000 and may be subject to collection.”

Because the appellate prosecutor found no criminal charges, Rigazio said it appears the Grundy County State’s Attorney’s Office did not like that response and “decided to shop for another prosecutorial agency.”

On Tuesday, Halpin’s team filed a motion to vacate the appointment of the Kendall County State’s Attorney’s Office.

The motion states Grundy County State’s Attorney Jason Helland asked the court to relieve Colburn and to have all documents delivered to his office. The motion states it was a conflict of interest for Helland’s office to handle the evidence since the office represents the county board and all of its members including Halpin.

The Kendall office was approved by the board to be Grundy’s special prosecutor, but the motion states if the board wanted additional work on the matter, Colburn should have been the one to respond to their requests.

The motion states that despite Colburn’s finding of no criminal charges Helland still sought a second review of the matter by “a prosecutor of his choosing.”

Colburn’s letter states the appellate prosecutor’s office accepted the appointment in the role of criminal prosecutor, not as a civil collection agent, and therefore he requested to be vacated from the case having completed that.

Therefore, to take civil action, another special prosecutor was sought.

Tuesday’s motion implies that Helland is attempting to prosecute Halpin for a second time because he is a Republican and Halpin is a Democrat.

“I disagree with the characterization that the proper procedure was not followed,” said Nemura Pencyla, Kendall County Assistant State’s Attorney.

Halpin is being sued as an individual, not as a board member, Pencyla said. As a board member, it is not part of Halpin’s responsibilities to submit vouchers. He does that as an individual, Pencyla said, therefore it is not a conflict for Helland to have gone through the procedure for a special prosecutor.

In order for there to have been a conflict, Helland would have had to have conversations about the case with Halpin, Pencyla said, which he has not.

“No where in the motion does it address what statutory or case law base they have to ask the judge to do this,” he said.

The parties are due in court Oct. 9.

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