Madison - St. Clair Record

Monday, October 14, 2019

Lawyer for Prenzler, others says Gibbons has conflict of interest in pursuing task force investigation

By Ann Maher | Jan 31, 2018


A lawyer for Madison County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler and other officials whose offices were raided three weeks ago by a public corruption task force is seeking an outside prosecutor, saying State's Attorney Tom Gibbons is conflicted.

Alton attorney G. Edward Moorman states in a petition filed this afternoon that Prenzler, county administrator Doug Hulme and IT director Rob Dorman have tried to communicate with Gibbons about the raid on their offices Jan. 10, but Gibbons has "refused to discuss the search warrant or the grand jury subpoena or provide any representation, advice, or counsel..."

The county's Freedom of Information Act officer Andrew Esping, whose computer was seized in yet another raid after hours on Tuesday night, had been subpoenaed by Gibbons to appear before a grand jury on Jan. 25.

According to Moorman's petition, Esping, 24, of Troy, had sought legal assistance and advice from Gibbons before appearing for the grand jury, but Gibbons responded that he would not provide advice on the matter, "to avoid any possible appearance of a conflict."

Gibbons told Esping that he could ask the county's chief judge for appointment of counsel, ask the chief judge to appoint a public defender or hire his own attorney, the petition states.

Under normal circumstances, a state's attorney is supposed to provide representation, advice and counsel to county officers and their employees in legal proceedings.

"...[T]he State's Attorney can not professionally represent any county officer or employee who is also subject to search warrants and a subpoena directed by the same State's Attorney," the petition states. "Consequently, the State's Attorney must withdraw from his representation of both the county officers and  his representation of the People of the State of Illinois in this matter.  An attorney can not represent one of his clients in an action against another of his clients."

Since the fairly high profile mid-day raid three weeks ago, Gibbons has not made any public comments regarding the reason for the raid. Numerous message with his office and Lt. David Vucich, who was identified as media contact, have gone unanswered.

In a press release issued by after the raid, Gibbons' office said it had received evidence of possible illegal conduct by unnamed county officials in the later months of 2017.

Gibbons called for the formation of the special investigative task force based on information provided through several sources and individuals. The task force is comprised of members of multiple state and local law enforcement agencies and has been formed to “investigate the allegations and determine the extent of any wrongdoing,” the state’s attorney’s release states.

Prenzler and Hulme have said they do not know why their offices would be subject to search or why their computers would be seized.

A controversy involving a former employee of Gibbons and the release of information through a FOIA request last year had Gibbons' office seeking the return of records. 

Former employee Andrew Kane had been provided records from the county about a 2012 political fundraiser that was discussed by employees in Gibbons' office in response to his FOIA request.

Kane made the same request for records to Gibbons' office, but had been told the office did not possess such records.

In its request that the records be returned, Gibbons' office said the county had provided them in error. Kane then sought a ruling from State Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who found in favor of Kane's right to possess them.  

Regarding Tuesday night's raid, Prenzler said that he found out about it this morning after IT staff arrived at around 6 a.m. and saw that investigators had been been in the office, having left behind a search warrant. They left at 8:46 p.m. with two computers and a manila file folder that contained FOIA records from 2017 and this year, he said.

Prenzler said that with the exception of three recent FOIA requests from a newspaper, the information taken by authorities was the same information that Esping took to the grand jury last week.

Prenzler said that his attorney has been "run around the Maypole" the last couple of days trying to file the motion for special prosecutor.

"They really ran him around the tree," Prenzler said.

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