SYCAMORE – County officials said they could no longer trust an assistant state’s attorney who resigned Friday because he gave them false information about a case on which he represented them and made a dubious claim about his wife’s death.
John Farrell, who until Friday was the chief civil assistant in the state’s attorney’s office – and was state’s attorney himself from 2009 to 2010 – also used his wife’s illness as an excuse for the misinformation. He also told a county official that his wife had died in January, when voting records appear to show she voted in the March primary election.
“The purpose of this memorandum is to suggest that you arrange for the immediate replacement of John Farrell as civil counsel to the County of DeKalb,” DeKalb County Administrator Ray Bockman wrote in a letter to State’s Attorney Clay Campbell and County Board Chairman Larry Anderson dated Friday. “... This office can no longer maintain any level of confidence in his ability to represent the county’s interests in any capacity.”
Richard Schmack, who provided information that helped bring the matter to light, has called for a special prosecutor to investigate Farrell’s conduct. Schmack is the Democratic candidate for state’s attorney in the November election.
Two messages left on Farrell’s cellphone were not returned Tuesday.
At issue is a lawsuit brought by a pair of land trusts and NB&T Bank against the county, challenging the County Board’s decision to deny a requested zoning variance to build a farmhouse on a roughly 10-acre tract of land along Whipple Road outside Sycamore.
In October 2011, Farrell agreed to a settlement with Schmack, the plaintiffs’ attorney, which allowed for the building of a farmhouse on the property with some minor restrictions. In the settlement, Farrell agreed the county would not appeal the ruling.
Despite the settlement, Farrell told county officials as recently as September that he had filed an appeal, which he said was delayed because Schmack was running for office against Farrell’s boss, Campbell.
“For about a year now our civil counsel has been reporting progress on a case in the appellate court that does not appear to exist in the real world,” Bockman wrote.
CALL FOR SPECIAL PROSECUTOR
Campbell said he had no comment on his former employee’s activity. Farrell, 61, said Monday that he resigned because of serious health issues.
Schmack said a special prosecutor should be appointed to investigate Farrell for official misconduct.
“I think this illustrates a lack of supervision in the [state’s attorney’s] office,” Schmack said.
Schmack also sent a letter to Campbell, detailing Farrell’s alleged transgressions and his calling for a special prosecutor.
Schmack said he did not think Campbell knew Farrell was telling “bald-faced lies” to the county about the appeal. But he said the situation was indicative of Campbell’s administration.
Campbell had no comment on whether he would seek to investigate Farrell. He criticized Schmack for using the situation to score political points.
“I think it’s unfortunate Mr. Schmack is attempting to use this issue to further his political campaign,” Campbell said.
Campbell announced Friday that Stephanie Klein would replace Farrell as chief civil assistant, but gave no indication of Farrell’s alleged official misconduct, which Schmack called “a cover-up.”
Campbell said he had no comment on “the unsubstantiated speculation of Mr. Schmack.”
As the chief civil assistant, Farrell represented the county and all of its departments in civil matters. Farrell also was the office’s point person for the state’s attorney in the county’s drug court.
RECORDS SHOW TALKS
Schmack has email and billing records that detail his and Farrell’s discussions about the 2011 settlement.
In one email, Schmack proposed adding restrictions on the land provided that the county did not appeal the court order allowing the building. Farrell replied in an email to Jackie Schmack, Schmack’s wife and secretary, that the proposed order “looked fine.” The final agreed order was filed in DeKalb County Court on Oct. 12, 2011, records show.
Schmack said he thought everything was fine until Paul Miller, the county’s planning director, made an offhand remark Oct. 10 about the county’s pending appeal of the zoning case. Schmack then sent a copy of the deal to Miller, who then asked Farrell about it.
Farrell, according to Miller, said he knew nothing about the deal and did not know who had agreed to it.
WIFE’S DEATH QUESTIONED
In a letter to Bockman recounting two conversations he had with Farrell last week, Miller said that when confronted about the information, Farrell mentioned it occurred around the time his wife fell ill.
“Farrell then noted that the agreed order had been signed during a time when his wife was dealing with cancer from which she eventually died,” Miller wrote to Bockman in a letter Oct. 10. “I was caught off-guard by Mr. Farrell’s statement about his wife, and told him I was very confused because I had heard his wife had not, in fact, died.”
“... He said, ‘my wife died in January,’ (of 2012, presumably),” Miller wrote.
State election records show that in 2010, Farrell’s campaign committee listed an address of 1281Jim Drive in Sycamore. During the campaign, Farrell listed his wife as “Kathy.”
According to voting records from DeKalb County Clerk John Acardo’s office, Farrell was registered to vote at that address and pulled a Republican ballot in the March primary. Katherine Kamka, 42, of the same address, also pulled a Republican ballot in the March primary election, records show.
Both have had their registration suspended by the clerk’s office, likely because they no longer are at that address, the clerk’s office said.
“The confusion regarding Mr. Farrell’s wife only adds to my uncertainty,” Miller wrote to Bockman last week.
Campbell did not say whether Farrell’s wife was still alive, saying he would not “comment on personal matters regarding employees in the state’s attorney’s office.”