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'I still have a responsibility': County Board member Carlos Acosta attends first meeting since arrest

McHenry County Board member Carlos Acosta attended his first public meeting Tuesday morning since his Sept. 10 arrest for his handling of the AJ Freund case during his time as an employee with the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services.

Acosta did not attend the regular meeting of the full County Board on Sept. 15, but said he had always planned to call in to Tuesday's Law and Government/Liquor Committee meeting.

"I still have a responsibility so I still intend to participate," Acosta said in an interview Tuesday. "That last meeting, I just wasn't in the right place to go emotionally."

Acosta and his former DCFS supervisor, Andrew Polovin, were charged with two felony counts of endangering the life of a child and one felony count of reckless conduct for their work on the case of the 5-year-old Crystal Lake boy, AJ Freund, who was murdered by his parents in April 2019.

After Acosta's arrest, there seemed to be a consensus among board members and County Board Chairman Jack Franks that he should step down from his position as the County Board member representing District 5.

“My opinion is not based on his innocence or guilt, which is up to the court to decide, but his ability to represent the citizens of County Board District 5 with these charges being filed,” Franks said in a news release sent out Sept. 11, just one day after the arrest.

District 5 covers all of Dorr Township and the central part of Grafton Township. The district also is represented by County Board members Paula Yensen, Michael Skala and John Jung Jr.

In a Sept. 11 interview, board member Joseph Gottemoller said that Acosta should – at the very least – take a leave of absence while his case is heard. The best thing, however, would be for Acosta to resign as court proceedings around these charges are likely to take a while, leaving District 5 underrepresented in his absence, Gottemoller said.

In a court appearance on Sept. 24, Acosta pleaded not guilty to all three of the charges levied against him, telling the Northwest Herald that he was hoping for a "speedy trial."

Board member Carolyn Schofield said she has been unable to work with Acosta effectively for a while now and fellow board member Suzanne Ness said that, at the start of the year, she told him she was no longer willing to collaborate with him on resolutions.

“I never asked him about the case or what transpired; I only knew that his political life was over,” Ness said. "I believe his continued presence on the board serves no one."

When asked whether he was concerned about the ramifications of attending a meeting in person given the calls for his resignation, Acosta said that dynamic is one of the things he has been taking into consideration when deciding how best to remain engaged.

“I’m going to take it meeting-by-meeting," he said. “The board has a history of board members still being effective while attending remotely. I'm still in communication with constituents. I still respond to emails that I get and I’m still involved with a couple of different issues."

Moving forward, Acosta said he plans to continue attending meetings but said he was unsure whether that will be remotely or in person.

"Every day is an adventure in my life," he said. "Whether I attend the meetings in person or over the phone, nowadays I don't decide that until maybe a day or two before."

Either way, he said he remains dedicated to his work and has been engaging with constituents and doing research behind the scenes.

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