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McHenry County Sheriff Bill Prim hires man with criminal record to head patrol

McHenry County Sheriff Bill Prim has named his former campaign manager, Matt McNamara, to deputy chief of the patrol division.
McHenry County Sheriff Bill Prim has named his former campaign manager, Matt McNamara, to deputy chief of the patrol division.

WOODSTOCK – McHenry County Sheriff Bill Prim has given a supervisory position to a man whose criminal background became a target during Prim’s bid for sheriff.

Matt McNamara started Monday as deputy chief of patrol at the sheriff’s office.

McNamara’s criminal history became a campaign issue for Prim’s challenger during the sheriff’s election this past fall. Prim claimed McNamara was just an unpaid volunteer, after McNamara resigned as his campaign manager in 2012.

McNamara – who also is a Republican precinct committeeman in Grafton Township – has prior convictions for misdemeanor assault and driving under the influence.

He was arrested and charged with driving under the influence in 2012 in Jerome, Arizona. According to a police report from the time, McNamara blew more than twice the legal limit and told police that he was a Chicago police officer, but he was not.

A 2001 assault charge stems from a bar fight in Iowa in which McNamara is said to have choked a man, punched two women and dragged another by her hair across the parking lot in separate ­incidents, ­according to witness reports.

A judge in a 2001 bench trial convicted McNamara of misdemeanor assault stemming from the first fight, fining him $500 and $154 in court costs. The verdict was upheld on appeal.

Prim could not be reached for comment Monday, but allowed David Devane permission to speak on behalf of the sheriff’s office. Devane pointed to McNamara’s background running a security detail for a private company, and for Newt Gingrich and Bruce Rauner during their prospective campaigns.

“From our point of view, various organizations of government who are charged with the responsibility for vetting people had no qualms about giving him the green light,” Devane said.

McNamara’s criminal history was no secret, Devane said.

“This whole issue of his background was very thoroughly – almost nauseatingly – aired throughout the campaign,” Devane said. “Mr. Prim still was elected by a very wide margin. It’s not like the public has been in the dark.”

During the campaign, Prim routinely denied his challenger’s assertion that he would name McNamara as undersheriff, and said he never mentioned McNamara for “any particular office.”

Upon taking office, Prim rid the office of the position of undersheriff, instead naming three administrators who will report to him. McNamara will report to Ricardo Pagán, who was named chief of operations.

Salary information for McNamara was not immediately available.

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