WOODSTOCK – County law enforcement is looking into whether several comments made on a local political blog amount to death threats against McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks, he said Friday.
Franks said that he and his family are being protected by McHenry County Sheriff’s deputies while the office and the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s office investigate whether two comments on a March 23 post on McHenry County Blog constitute a threat.
Calling the time since “the most difficult thing I have lived through in all of my time in public life,” Franks, D-Marengo, asked blog publisher Cal Skinner to moderate reader comments, and fully cooperate in identifying the two readers who posted the alleged threats.
“Taxpayers should not have to foot the bill to protect me and my family from people who would put a price on our heads. Whatever we disagree about, I am certain that we agree violence, and the threat thereof, has no place in our political discourse,” Franks said in a statement.
There is no love lost between Franks and Skinner, a former Republican state representative from Lakewood. Skinner long has been a vocal critic of Franks, both during his time representing the 63rd District in the Illinois House to his November election as the first-ever popularly elected County Board chairman – Franks, a Democrat, is chairman of a county board in which all members but one are Republican.
Skinner laughed Friday afternoon when he was told of the investigation.
“I’m happy he’s reading my blog,” Skinner said.
The March 23 post reprinted a statement made during the public comment portion of the County Board meeting two days prior.
The statement, read on behalf of former board member Diane Evertsen, made a political allegory regarding dealing with weasels in a chicken coop, namely that 23 chickens – the 23 Republican members of the board – shouldn’t have a problem resolving “their problem with two weasels.”
Franks said two of the comments on Skinner’s blog post amount to calls for his assassination.
One comment on Skinner’s blog who goes by the name “LTResident,” suggested they should “schoot ‘em [sic].” The second, from commenter “Klaatu Barada Nikto,” said he “know[s] a fellow who specializes in terminating weasels of all kinds,” and quoted prices of $5,000 apiece, or $10,000 “if you need it to look like an accident.”
After being notified of the threats, McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally coordinated with McHenry County Sheriff Bill Prim to provide Franks and his family protection, and started an investigation, Franks said.
Kenneally could not confirm or deny that an investigation was ongoing. And while Prim could not comment on what kind of protective measures Franks was receiving, he said it does not include additional manpower, overtime or reallocation of resources.
Evertsen said Friday that the two weasels in the chicken coop she was referring to were Franks and County Administrator Peter Austin, and said the allegory was about the County Board asserting more control. She cited Franks’ decision to hire an executive assistant and communications director – while he has the legal right to do so and has maintained that they are needed, some County Board members have criticized the hirings as patronage hires on Franks’ part.
She said that she had absolutely no intention of hinting that anyone should come to harm.
“The County Board is in charge of making sure that both Jack and the administrator know what their jobs are, and hold them to doing their jobs and not doing end runs around the County Board’s authority,” Evertsen said.
Her comments were read to the County Board last month by someone else, because she had a scheduling conflict on account of her successful run for the McHenry County College Board.
Skinner said Franks is making himself look paranoid over his reaction to the posting.
“It seems to me that Jack Franks is a bit too sensitive,” Skinner said.
Franks disagreed. Franks, who is Jewish, said comparing people to nuisance animals is how some very dark moments in human history got started.
“Politics is full-contact sport, and I have never engaged in it at anything less than full speed. I have, however, always assumed that everyone’s expressed beliefs, even when they strenuously opposed mine, represented their view of the best way to make our community a better place. After seeing calls for my assassination on the McHenry County Blog, I’m sad that I can no longer honestly say that,” Franks said.