Former Police Commander; Part-time Court Security Officer, City of Des Plaines; Lake County, Illinois
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On The Record
Why are you running for county sheriff?
As I said when I first announced my candidacy a year and a half ago, the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) desperately needs to break from its recent practices and forge a new identity based firmly upon the principles of accountability; improved community relations; and a new emphasis on tapping volunteer enthusiasm. I am even more convinced now than I was then that these issues are critical. I also said my first task would be to repair and restore the image of the MCSO, which is that of a private club managed for the benefit of its members, not a professional law enforcement agency drawing its legitimacy and authority from the citizens. If anything, that perception has grown over the campaign. Here’s an example. The Sheriff fights in court, using taxpayer dollars and despite a ruling by the Attorney General, to prevent the release of an internal review of the Undersheriff’s role in tipping off a campaign donor of a DEA investigation involving his company. Yet this newspaper seems to have obtained a copy, which it does not share with its readers. It’s all an in-crowd, a charmed circle of friends. I think the public is sick of it.
The sheriff's office in recent years has been beset by acrimony and a strained working relationship with the state's attorney's office. How do you plan to address this?
I similarly addressed this issue at the time I announced. I promised to repair the tattered fabric of relationships between the MCSO and other county agencies and their leadership. The Sheriff’s Office needs to work with and alongside other county departments. No good has come out of all this constant intra-county friction, and it has cost the taxpayers a great deal of money. On this issue, I am certainly better positioned than my opponent. I have met frequently with State’s Attorney Bianchi, and he endorses and supports my candidacy, as does State Sen. Dan Duffy, former Congressman Joe Walsh, and numerous others. I doubt the State’s Attorney would be backing a candidate who he did not believe he could work with for the public good. On the other hand, my opponent is firmly entrenched with the current Sheriff’s Administration, and can be counted on to continue its quarrelsome and fractious practices.
What can be done to make the sheriff's office run more efficiently?
Replace the current regime. My opponent likes to take the credit for anything positive in the MCSO, so he must share the blame for the negatives, including extravagant administrative spending. The MCSO budget has increased more than 35% over the past five years, by far the largest amount (in dollars) of any county department. The Sheriff’s Office spent $24,540,322 in fiscal year 2008. By fiscal year 2012, that annual amount had ballooned to $33,188,495, an increase of $8.6 million. Over the same period, the number of full-time employees jumped from 394 to 407. I have stated that I will immediately cut several high-paying and unnecessary administrative positions and will go through the budget and carve out other unnecessary positions, without reducing the number of uniformed officers or affecting safety.
What can the sheriff's office do to be more accessible to residents?
I have made volunteerism one of the keynotes of my campaign. I have always been a believer, and a participant, in volunteer programs, which I consider the glue that holds a community together. I developed and implemented volunteer adjunct programs in Des Plaines, and have actively volunteered myself in organizations like the Boy Scouts. As Sheriff, I will organize volunteer outreach programs that go beyond concepts like Neighborhood Watch to actively bring people of all ages together in ways that build community and encourage greater cooperation between law enforcement and those they serve. Not only will the Sheriff’s Office become more accessible to residents, they will feel they have an active stake in all the things the Sheriff’s Office does.
What is the most-pressing issue the sheriff's office faces?
Community credibility. From battles with other officeholders, to relentless crusades against employees who push back against clumsy and heavy-handed discipline, to Sergeants convicted of charges related to child predatory sexual acts, the Sheriff’s Office has developed a severe image problem in the community. Simply selecting a different person who is still tied to the same policies will not solve the problem. To address one aspect of this crisis, I will create an office of Internal Affairs that will be professional, impartial and create confidence among the public and the rank and file officers both. Internal Affairs is a critical function for all law enforcement organizations, and must be carried out with awareness of criminal law, collective bargaining rights, employee civil rights and a myriad of other considerations. It’s time the MCSO had such an organization.
How would you differentiate yourself from your opponent?
Rather than increasing the number of employees and increasing the expenditures, as my opponent continues to advocate, all the time calls for service and jail population shrink, my goal is to enhance our services through creating a community volunteer program, shrinking our bloated administration and decreasing the runaway expenditures. Most importantly, I’m an outsider not beholding to any of the deals or arrangements initiated by previous administrations.