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Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon will not seek reelection

McMahon recounts 10 years in office, pursuing 'justice without fear or favor'

Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon
Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon

ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP – Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon announced today that he will not seek election to a third term in November 2020.

McMahon, a Republican, will have served 10 years as state’s attorney by then, having been appointed in 2010, elected in 2016 and re-elected in 2012, both times unopposed.

In a letter, McMahon stated he met with staff earlier in the day to share his decision not to run again.

“I wanted to serve as state’s attorney because I believe in public service and that as state’s attorney, I could have a positive impact on the lives of people who live and work in Kane County,” McMahon’s letter stated.

“My job as the chief legal and law enforcement officer for the county has been to seek justice. Sometimes, that meant pursuing severe penalties for severe crimes and sometimes it meant offering second chances to good people who made poor choices,” McMahon’s letter stated.

“Justice is not an exact science and what seems heavy-handed to some may seem lenient to others. Regardless, I, along with my dedicated staff of lawyers and administrative professionals, have pursued justice without fear or favor.”

McMahon’s letter recounts highlights and achievements in his office, including his role as a special prosecutor of Jason Van Dyke in Chicago, the officer who was convicted in the 2014 shooting death of Laquan McDonald.

“That case was a test of our justice system,” McMahon wrote. “I am … incredibly proud that I was selected to handle such an important case and incredibly proud of the work that my staff and I put into that prosecution,” McMahon wrote.

Without naming Kane County Chairman Chris Lauzen, McMahon’s letter also made an indirect mention of the conflicts he and his office have had with him.

In praising his staff who work without public recognition, McMahon wrote that they were “often subject to unfair criticism by individuals in an effort to advance their personal and political agendas.”

“My independence, and that of my office, has at times created conflict with members of both parties and some other count office-holders,” McMahon wrote. “Neither my independence, nor my disagreements have risen out of personal animosity or politics, but instead have been motivated by my belief in the rule of law.”

Among the conflicts McMahon had with Lauzen was the time in September 2016 when he sent a letter to all 24 county board members stating that Lauzen exceeded his authority when he entered into three agreements with an outside law firm, in violation of state law and the county’s own ordinances.

McMahon’s letter had asserted that Lauzen entered into agreements at a cost of $95,000, without being authorized as required by state law and the county’s own purchasing ordinance. The agreements were also not reviewed or approved by the state’s attorney’s office.

“These unilateral decisions to retain and pay for legal services using county funds are acts in excess of the authority of a Kane County board chairman,” McMahon’s letter stated.

At the time, Lauzen had defended his agreements as consultant work, not legal services.

A year ago, McMahon issued a letter to Lauzen and County Board members citing a state law that prohibits a public official from voting on any measure that would benefit himself directly or indirectly.

At issue was Lauzen voting to break a 10-10 tie to reimburse himself for expenses. At the following County Board meeting, Lauzen tore up a $149.07 reimbursement check to show his disdain.

In a 2018 letter, Lauzen criticized McMahon regarding the county being sued by the owners of a drug treatment facility that was denied a special use zoning permit.

“We are now being herded into a settlement that will cost Kane County taxpayers plenty and subverts the authority of local control,” Lauzen’s letter stated.

In an email response, McMahon defended the strategy to minimize financial risk to county taxpayers, "as consistent with the direction we have received from a consensus of the entire board.”

In April, Lauzen and McMahon's office locked horns on legal interpretations of Roberts Rules of Order in connection with a vote that failed 11-9 because 13 yes votes were required to rescind a resolution that approved collective bargaining agreements.

Lauzen paid for three legal opinions out of his own pocket – to avoid being accused of misusing county funds for outside attorneys. McMahon responded that those opinions were "incorrect on this issue."

In a blistering letter to the Kane County Chronicle April 10, Lauzen charged that the Civil Division of the State’s Attorney’s Office “has not been properly supervised since Joe McMahon applied to prosecute the Cook County Laquan McDonald Case.”

“During that time, Kane County taxpayers have lost millions of dollars due to McMahon’s distraction and lack of transparency … to build his political career and personal ambition in the Laquan McDonald case,” Lauzen’s letter asserted.

Lauzen had no comment on the news that McMahon would not seek re-election.

In other achievements, McMahon noted his was the first state’s attorney’s office in the state to provide Crisis Intervention Training for police officers who encounter people who are having a mental health crisis.

That and Crisis Stabilization Units in Kane County will save the lives both of police officers and members of the public who are going through mental health crises, according to McMahon’s letter.

McMahon wrote that whoever his successor may be, he or she will inherit “a well-run, professional office full of dedicated attorneys and staff.”

“It is my hope that my successor maintains the integrity, professionalism and commitment to justice that has been so important to me and my colleagues over the last 10 years,” McMahon wrote. “The citizens of Kane County deserve no less.”

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