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Grundy County Board member Frank Halpin facing prosecution

Published: Thursday, March 27, 2014 9:17 p.m. CDT

OTTAWA – The civil case against Grundy County Board member Frank Halpin continued Wednesday with his defense team fighting the appointment of a Kendall County assistant state’s attorney as a special prosecutor for the case.

Grundy County filed a lawsuit in September against Halpin for the money he is accused of misappropriating from the county, not less than $40,000, and the recoupment of all wages and benefits that Halpin received during his breach of duties as chairman and as a board member from 2008 to 2013, at least $200,000.

Halpin was first elected to the board in 1994.

Halpin’s case is being heard in LaSalle County after his attorneys, Mark Rigazio and Jeff Tomczak, requested it be removed from Grundy County last year. They argued Wednesday the appointment of special prosecutor Nemura Pencyla, an assistant state’s attorney in Kendall County, should not have been requested by Grundy County State’s Attorney Jason Helland.

“I do not think he did anything intentionally or maliciously, but he clearly and admittedly conflicted out of the case because he represents all of the county board, including Frank Halpin,” Rigazio said Thursday. “After admitting there was a conflict [of interest], he then filed a motion to appoint the Kendall County State’s Attorney’s Office.”

Because of the conflict of interest, Rigazio said Helland and his office should have never appeared in court regarding this case – even for the motion to obtain a special prosecutor.

He continued that a special prosecutor should have been appointed by the appellate prosecutor that originally investigated Halpin’s case.

“Even if there was an error in any way, its an issue of form over substance,” special prosecutor Pencyla said Thursday. “When push comes to shove, if the court were to ask again [for a special prosecutor], we would step up.”

“This is just delaying the inevitable, “ he said.

Pencyla said the need for a special prosecutor is valid and therefore he should stay in place.

A ruling is expected by April 29 regarding the special prosecutor. Rigazio said the judge could leave Pencyla in place, bring the appointment back to the appellate prosecutor’s recommendation or the judge could appoint another attorney to take over.

This lawsuit against Halpin follows allegations raised years ago by current board Vice Chairman David Welter. 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.       

About a year ago 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 after an investigation done by his office and Illinois State Police that no criminal charges were discovered.

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