Our View: Trust county to investigate Farrell matter

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012 5:30 a.m.CDT

There should be no rush to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate recently departed State’s Attorney Chief Civil Assistant John Farrell.

For now, county officials are the ones in the best position to determine whether this was an isolated incident or there is a broader problem.

Farrell, who was the DeKalb County state’s attorney from 2009 to 2010, said he was resigning immediately Oct. 12 to deal with personal health issues. It was later discovered that his resignation had come under pressure from DeKalb County officials, whom Farrell had misled into believing that a county zoning case was under appeal when it had been settled a year earlier.

Documents show that when asked about the settlement, Farrell said he might not have been aware of it because of his wife’s illness, going on to say that his wife had died in January. Voting records show that she voted in March, however.

If the county officials’ claims are true – and neither Farrell nor his boss, State’s Attorney Clay Campbell, have suggested otherwise – then it’s entirely appropriate that Farrell resigned.

County officials should report Farrell to the Illinois Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission, which handles discipline of lawyers, for providing false information to them.

Farrell’s claims to county officials, as well as the settled zoning case and Farrell’s consent to it, are documented. That investigation can be done at no cost to the county.

The county also should conduct an internal review to ensure no other important cases have been compromised.

Campbell’s opponent in the November election, Richard Schmack, argues that those in county government are too close to the matter to effectively investigate it.

Schmack has said the matter must be turned over to an independent special prosecutor or the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.

But internal investigations are done routinely in the public and private sectors when problems with employees arise. This case should be no different. County officials should be trusted to determine whether there are any other problems because it is in their best interest to do so.

County officials brought this issue to the forefront in the first place, so it seems unlikely that they would now reverse course and attempt to cover up other problems.

If it turns out this was an isolated incident, it seems there’s little left to do than report the matter to the disciplinary commission and move forward.

Taxpayers should not be pushed into paying for a special prosecution unless the county uncovers evidence of more serious wrongdoing.

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