Cook Sheriff's office fires former McHenry County Board member

Former Republican McHenry County Board member Robert Bless has been fired from his job as a Cook County Sheriff’s Office deputy after its disciplinary board concluded that he had violated several rules regarding his other employment.

The Cook County Sheriff’s Merit Board honored the sheriff’s office request that Bless be fired in a May 3 ruling obtained by the Northwest Herald under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.

It ruled that Bless did not file required annual reports that he had secondary employment as a McHenry County Board member and practicing attorney, especially while collecting disability after a car crash.

“This respondent was sworn to uphold the public trust of not just the taxpayers of Cook County, but also the public trust of the taxpayers of McHenry County. The board finds that the respondent maliciously breached that trust,” the merit board concluded in its findings.

The board also concluded that Bless lied to investigators by claiming that he had in fact filed the annual paperwork necessary to hold down other jobs.

Bless deferred comment to his attorney, Dana Kurtz, who could not be reached.

Bless collected disability while on injured duty status between September 2008 and November 2010, which also precluded him from driving, according to the report. The board called it “extremely egregious” that he was not only driving in his duties as a County Board member, but also getting reimbursed by county taxpayers for mileage.

“The evidence clearly demonstrates that the respondent lied to the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, Office of Professional Review so as to continue looting Cook County taxpayers by continuing to receive temporary disability checks from the Insurance Fund while getting paid as an attorney and while getting paid as a McHenry County Commissioner,” the merit board wrote.

Bless was elected as a Republican in 2008 to represent County Board District 1, which then covered southern and eastern Algonquin Township. But voters in 2012 did not grant him a second term.

Bless’ firing is retroactive to October 2011, when Sheriff Tom Dart’s office filed its complaint against Bless. He subsequently had been stripped of his police powers and placed on administrative duties since at least last year. The merit board heard his case between last November and January.

His firing also comes as he awaits action to be taken against his law license for an unrelated incident.

The Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission Hearing Board ruled last month that Bless engaged in professional misconduct relating to a 2010 complaint against his law license.

The four-count complaint alleges that Bless inappropriately had a sexual relationship with a client he was representing, borrowed money from her and entered into business deals with her, and tried to influence her as a witness and tried to mislead ARDC investigators.

What rules Bless allegedly broke, and what sanctions the hearing board recommends against his law license, will not be revealed until the board releases its final report. That report goes to the Illinois Supreme Court, which is the licensing authority for lawyers.

Sanctions range from censure to disbarment. Bless, who has been licensed to practice in Illinois since May 2004, has had no previous action taken against his license, according to state records.

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