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Judge addresses state's attorney's drug court concerns

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT

SYCAMORE — Presiding Judge Robbin Stuckert shared her response to the state's attorney's evaluation of the drug court program Monday at a DeKalb County Board committee meeting.

At the County Board's law and justice committee meeting in August, State's Attorney Clay Campbell discussed his evaluation and told members he and his staff tried to point out problems they saw in the program and suggest future improvements.

Campbell decided to investigate the DeKalb County Drug Court: Choosing Life and Ending Abuse Now program in April after receiving information that a drug court staff member had an inappropriate relationship with a drug court participant. That staff member resigned in June 2011.

Campbell's completed evaluation was released in July mentioning the inappropriate relationship between the participant and a staff member blurred boundaries between a drug court graduate and the former public defender, and the need to reduce costs associated with drug court.

Campbell said in August that his staff is taking a more active role in the admissions process for drug court.

Chairwoman Marlene Allen, R-Sandwich, said she invited Stuckert, who presides over drug court, to share her response with the committee at Monday's meeting. She said the committee was satisfied with the response and hoped that all involved could move forward.

Stuckert's response includes a timeline detailing when certain events Campbell mentioned occurred and who was aware or involved in them, like the resignation of the staff member in June 2011.

The response also mentions how staff responded to the news that a drug court graduate was involved in a criminal investigation, having former public defender Regina Harris remove herself from drug court to avoid any appearance of impropriety.

According to Campbell's evaluation, police are investigating a drug court graduate for financial exploitation of a senior citizen through unlawful use of his credit card. Harris has said the extent of her involvement in the situation was putting in writing the debt that the graduate owed the victim.

Stuckert notes in the response that Campbell never met with any drug court staff members, other than the assistant state's attorney, during the evaluation process, and drug court staff were not given a copy of his evaluation, while the law and justice committee and media were.

She invited Campbell to take part in drug court personally, as his predecessors have done, so that issues can be addressed as they arise.

At the meeting, Stuckert pointed out that drug court staff have never come to the county for operational funds, other than initial pilot money, and she doesn't foresee drug court staff doing so in the future.

Of that pilot money – $100,000 given by the county the first year to implement the program and an additional $100,000 the following year – Marilyn Stromborg, drug court coordinator, said about $140,000 of that remains.

Stromborg said it's a misunderstanding on Campbell's part, that the program is dependent upon grant funding. She likened grant funding to the icing on a cake.

State statute allows the program to impose a $5 fee on each court case that goes through the system, which brings in $10,000 to $11,000 a month for the program, Stromborg said.

"So, I'm not sure what his concerns are with funding," Stuckert said.

Stuckert requested that both Campbell's evaluation and her response be posted on the county's website, at www.dekalbcounty.org. She said the purpose of this is to educate the public about the program.

Drug court is a voluntary program that requires participants to appear in court, undergo drug testing and more. Participants receive treatment and rehabilitation in a five-phase program. Those who don’t complete phases face sanctions, including community service or having to repeat phases.

Committee member Derek Tyson, D-DeKalb, was absent from the meeting.

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