Winnebago Co. State’s Attorney files motion to reconsider; delays chairman’s lawsuit

WINNEBAGO COUNTY (WREX) — Winnebago County State’s Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross has filed a Motion to Reconsider over a recent judgment from Judge Donna Honzel that granted Chairman Frank Haney a special prosecutor in his fight to regain his executive power as chairman.

Last month, Honzel appointed Haney’s personal attorney, Ken Florey, as special prosecutor in his lawsuit against the Winnebago County Board.  At the time, Hite Ross had filed a motion to have the petition for special legal representation dismissed.  Honzel denied that motion and then appointed Florey as the special state’s attorney.

However, new court documents, obtained by 13 WREX, show Hite Ross has asked the judge to reconsider both of those decisions.

On Monday, July 8, Deputy State’s Attorney David Kurlinkus filed three new motions in Winnebago County court on behalf of Hite Ross. The first two are motions to reconsider the judgments listed above.

The first motion questions the legality of the court appointing a special prosecutor in the case.  Haney argued Hite Ross had a conflict of interest in representing him in his lawsuit against the board, as she serves as legal counsel for both parties. The new motion argues that despite Haney’s attempt to show numerous political disagreements between he and the state’s attorney, those alone do not prove actual legal conflict.

It also questions the idea of Haney’s perceived ‘vested rights’ as chairman.  Haney initially argued the county board did not have the right to take away the chairman’s powers through ordinance because voters elected him with that power and authority already in place. He said it’s reasonable to think voters wanted him to have that authority during his time in office.

Hite Ross’s motion disagreed, arguing “the ability of the county board to make changes to duties and powers of the county board chairman is clearly contemplated by the Illinois Constitution.”  She goes onto argue “there is no language in statute or in the Illinois Constitution which indicates that there is a limitation on when those ordinances can be passed.”

Haney told 13 WREX last month that people voted for him to do a job that he can no longer do because of the ordinances passed by the county board.

Hite Ross argued the reasons stated in her motions prove the chairman did not establish an actual conflict of interest and that should nullify the appointment of the special prosecutor.

A second motion cites a former case in which Florey represented the county board in a lawsuit against former Chief Judge Joe McGraw.  In it, she argues Florey’s involvement as the county’s legal counsel should prohibit him from representing a client (Haney) who is now suing the county board.

The motion states “the state’s attorney should be given the opportunity to have a hearing on the specific appointment of Mr. Florey so that the question of whether the subject matter of the current appointment is closely enough related to his prior representation to constitute a conflict of interest prohibiting his appointment as special prosecutor can be raised and considered by the Court.”

Florey told 13 WREX Thursday that it was clear in the initial court process that if the state’s attorney’s attempt to have the petition for a special prosecutor dismissed was denied, the next step would be to have him named the special state’s attorney.

A hearing has been set for July 24 in front of Judge Donna Honzel for these motions to be officially heard.  Until then, Haney and his legal team will be unable to file an official complaint with the court regarding the actions taken by the county board.

That step was required within 30 days of the initial ruling but had not happened by the time the new motions were filed by the state’s attorney.

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