Quinn signs special prosecutor bill into law
The taxpayer-funded legal drama created by the failed special prosecution of State's Attorney Lou Bianchi has inspired a law to prevent it from happening elsewhere in Illinois.
Gov. Pat Quinn on Friday signed House Bill 4749 into law, which significantly curtails a judge's ability to appoint special prosecutors to investigate alleged crimes when the state's attorney is unwilling or unable.
The bill was inspired by the price tag on the special prosecution of Bianchi and three of his staff, which resulted in their acquittal on all charges. McHenry County's local state legislators carried the bill, which passed through the General Assembly without a single dissenting vote.
County taxpayers have paid at least $525,000 to date, and despite getting about $100,000 back from a settlement reached in a related civil-rights lawsuit, could be on the hook for more. The new law does not affect the ongoing fight over the cost.
County Board Chairman Ken Koehler, R-Crystal Lake, welcomed the news that Quinn signed the law, but said it is unfortunate that goings on in McHenry County inspired it.
"It's a relief to know there are some people out there who have an understanding that this thing should not have gone to the extent that it did in McHenry County, and that the taxpayers are the losers," Koehler said.
Under the new law, a judge contemplating appointing a special prosecutor first must reach out to other public agencies, such as the Illinois Attorney General or other other counties' state's attorneys, to see whether they can investigate at no cost to the county.
If a special prosecutor cannot be avoided, county government has the right to participate in all agreements regarding the prosecutor's pay, and has the right to an itemized bill of expenses.
The new law forbids a judge from expanding the scope of a special prosecutor's investigation without prior notice to county government, which can weigh in on the estimated costs.
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