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County Board: No plans for external investigation into Farrell

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT

SYCAMORE – DeKalb County Board members are in no rush to launch an investigation into the conduct of John Farrell, the former chief civil assistant in the county’s state’s attorney’s office who gave officials false information about a case on which he represented them.

DeKalb County State’s Attorney candidate Richard Schmack has called for a special prosecutor to look into Farrell’s actions, but county leaders said Monday that it is too early to say whether such action is necessary.

DeKalb County Board Chairman Larry Anderson, R-Malta, said board members have not discussed the issue with each other, but he has talked with DeKalb County State’s Attorney Clay Campbell and other department heads about Farrell and no red flags have appeared in early internal investigations.

“We don’t know exactly what’s going on,” Anderson said. “We’ll leave all our options on the table ... but we have found no problems yet.”

Riley Oncken, a Sycamore Republican and a local attorney, agreed with Anderson that it would be premature to begin an external investigation when Farrell’s actions could have been an isolated incident.

County Administrator Ray Bockman asked that Farrell be removed from his position in a letter to Campbell dated Oct. 12, after it was found he had been telling the county he was working on an appeal of a zoning case that the county had lost and settled. When confronted by county Planning Director Paul Miller, Farrell used his wife’s illness as an excuse for the misinformation. He later claimed his wife died in January when records show she voted in March.

Oncken said the county would need to be cautious about an outside investigation because it could be costly, but it could be warranted if board members believe any internal reviews fail to produce substantial answers.

“We have to do what is in the best interest of the county and the best interest of the taxpayers,” Oncken said. “This will probably be a topic of discussion.”

Ken Andersen, R-Sycamore, said he would expect that discussion to take place in the board’s law and justice committee, on which he serves.

Andersen said there are potential serious ramifications if Farrell’s behavior was not an isolated incident, especially with the status of the landfill expansion appeal.

“It’s very alarming to see anything like this coming out,” Andersen said. “It definitely warrants discussion.”

Schmack, the Democratic candidate for state’s attorney who is opposing incumbent Republican Campbell, has been adamant in calling for an outside investigation into possible misconduct by Farrell. Schmack’s client opposed the county in the zoning case, and Schmack says that because Farrell was a former state’s attorney, local authorities’ objectivity could be questioned.

“I’m not calling for John’s prosecution, I’m calling for evaluation of that possibility by an uninvolved attorney,” Schmack wrote in a letter to the editor. “Decisions must be made by someone who is not torn by professional and personal conflicts, as is the case with both [Clay] Campbell and myself.”

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