The United States might have the best legal system in the world, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t without its flaws.
Case in point: How can a defendant in a lawsuit agree to pay more than $150,000 in damages to settle a case against him but not acknowledge any wrongdoing?
That’s what happened last week when Henry Tonigan coughed up $157,500 to State’s Attorney Lou Bianchi.
You remember Tonigan. He and his partner in crime, Thomas McQueen, were paid hundreds of thousands of McHenry County taxpayers’ dollars to, well ... I’m still trying to figure that out.
Remember the Wall Street bailout? This case was akin to the incompetent attorney bailout.
Tonigan and McQueen were appointed as special prosecutors to investigate allegations that Bianchi had State’s Attorney’s Office staff do campaign work on public time. They managed to get a grand jury to indict Bianchi on 21 corruption-related counts and Bianchi’s secretary on four perjury counts.
After somehow persuading a judge to allow them to expand the scope of their investigation, they secured indictments against Bianchi on three additional counts and two of his investigators on separate counts.
We know the rest of this part of the story. Tonigan and McQueen went 0-for-the-indictments after all of the charges were laughed out of court.
Unfortunately, their compensation wasn’t tied to their competency. The county already has paid them $242,399. And unless something changes, taxpayers still are on the hook for an additional $288,201.
Given last week’s settlement, something should change.
In the wake of his acquittal, Bianchi sued Tonigan, McQueen and a computer forensics firm they hired, claiming they manufactured false evidence against him in what he alleged was a politically motivated, malicious prosecution.
Rather than fight Bianchi’s claims in court, Tonigan paid up.
If Tonigan wasn’t willing to defend himself, if he wasn’t willing to fight the allegations that he manufactured evidence, then why should county taxpayers pay him and McQueen an additional $288,201. In fact, why shouldn’t taxpayers be reimbursed for all of the money already paid out.
It’s too early to say how this story is going to play out. McQueen and the computer firm have not settled, and Bianchi’s lawsuit against them is pending.
I, and I’m sure most taxpayers, eagerly await the outcome.
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If you build it: Centegra Health System and residents in southern McHenry and northern Kane counties got some welcome news last week.
After falling just short twice before, Centegra won state approval to build a new, $233 million, 128-bed hospital at its existing campus in Huntley. Centegra said the project will create about 800 construction jobs and 1,100 permanent jobs once the hospital begins treating patients in 2016. That’s, like, a zillion-dollar investment in the community.
Even in this summer of nonstop, headache-inducing road work, I’ll admit, I can’t wait to see construction crews at Haligus and Reed roads.
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Best wishes: After about 30 years working for the Northwest Herald and a couple of its predecessors, Kurt Begalka left us Wednesday to begin a new career as executive director of the McHenry County Historical Society.
Begalka started as a reporter at the Woodstock Daily Sentinel in 1981. He worked there until about 1984, when he temporarily took a reporting job in Virginia. He returned to McHenry County and became sports editor of the Harvard Herald in 1985. That was about the time that Shaw Media (then Shaw Newspapers) began merging many of its McHenry County newspapers into what became the Northwest Herald.
Since then, Begalka’s held a number of reporting and editing positions with the newspaper, covering most every corner of the county at one point or another. To say he will be missed is an understatement (although you’ll likely still see him in the newspaper writing columns for us.)
Begalka is replacing Nancy Fike, who is about to embark on a much-deserved retirement, at the historical society. Congratulations to both.
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Community support: Family and friends of Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class John Larimer paid their final respects Saturday in a private ceremony.
A 2003 Crystal Lake South graduate, Larimer was one of 12 killed in the shooting rampage July 20 during a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” at a Colorado movie theater. A true American hero, he died while shielding his girlfriend from the slaughter.
The community showed its overwhelming support for Larimer’s family during his processional return home Thursday and public visiting hours Friday.
When local people are down, McHenry County residents always have stepped up to do what they can. I’m proud to be a part of this community because of that.
But the Larimer family still is grieving. We continue to mourn with them.
• Dan McCaleb is senior editor of the Northwest Herald. He can be reached at 815-526-4603, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.