The defense team for Grundy County Board member Frank Halpin – who is being sued by the rest of the County Board – is asking for a non-Grundy County judge to preside over the case.
On Monday, both Judge Sheldon Sobol and Judge Lance Peterson recused themselves from the case. This was after Judge Robert Marsaglia on Thursday granted a motion for the defense asking for substitution of judge.
Halpin’s attorney, Mark Rigazio, said Tuesday it is not uncommon to request a different judge when a case involves a county official. Because Grundy is a small community, it can be “uncomfortable” to have county judges hear cases involving the County Board, he said.
Grundy County only has these three judges, so the case has gone to 13th Judicial Circuit Chief Judge H. Chris Ryan Jr. for reassignment, according to the court file. Grundy County, along with Bureau and LaSalle counties, is in the 13th Judicial Circuit.
Prosecutor Nemura Pencyla, an assistant state’s attorney in the Kendall County State’s Attorney’s Office, confirmed Tuesday this was the latest court action he was aware of and expected it would be at least a week before an assignment would come from Ryan.
The Grundy County Board filed in September a lawsuit against Halpin, of Gardner. In March, the County Board voted to launch an investigation through the Kendall County State’s Attorney’s Office into whether the county should sue Halpin.
The Kendall office has to handle the suit because the Grundy County State’s Attorney’s Office represents the County Board and all of its members and, therefore, cannot file suit for the board.
The county is suing Halpin for money he allegedly misappropriated from the county, not less than $40,000, and the recoupment of all wages and benefits that Halpin received during his breach of duties as chairman and as a board member from 2008 to 2013, at least $200,000.
Halpin was first elected to the board in 1994.
This lawsuit follows allegations first raised by current board Vice Chairman David Welter more than two years ago. At that time, Welter – based on an investigation he did prior to being elected to the board – accused Halpin of receiving reimbursements for meetings he either did not attend or that never took place.
Also in March, it was decided no criminal action could be taken against Halpin.
Appellate prosecutor Charles Colburn, who had been appointed to investigate any criminal acts by Halpin, said there were no criminal charges discovered.
“As I previously verbally indicated to your Honor, following a long and intensive investigation by the agency and assisted by the Illinois State Police, we have determined that no prosecutable criminal activity has been discovered,” he wrote in a letter to the judge.
The letter also said it was determined at least one board member had received funds in excess of what should have been received.
“However,” the letter states, “it has also been determined that through errors and omissions at least one and perhaps more county board members have received funds in excess of those that should have been received. These funds are in excess of $5,000 and may be subject to collection.”