Iroquois prosecutor not prepared to charge ex-employees

WATSEKA — Iroquois County’s top prosecutor said further action by the county board will be required before he can decide whether to prosecute ex-employees of the now-dissolved Ford-Iroquois Public Health Department on criminal charges related to their alleged misuse of government computers.

Since Wednesday, State’s Attorney Jim Devine has been in contact with Andrew R. Garrett, a computer forensic expert for Decatur-based Garrett Discovery Inc. Garrett delivered a report to the county board Wednesday, detailing the findings of his examination of five computers used by former health department managers who, according to Chairman Rod Copas, resigned “under suspicious circumstances.”

Garrett’s report revealed that three former officials in the health department used their work computers for “personal use and gain and possibly illegal and unethical activities” at least 70 percent of the time they were on them. Garrett said hundreds of pornography files were found on one computer — which was used by former Public Health Administrator Doug Corbett.

Devine said Thursday that he was not prepared to prosecute any of the ex-employees, noting that when the report was delivered to the board, that was “the first time I had seen any of the allegations.”

Devine noted that Copas had the forensic audit done “without any consultation with me or my office,” adding that “it is pretty difficult to make an informed decision about a criminal prosecution when you have not been involved in the investigation process that was conducted primarily by a single individual, Rod Copas.”

Moreover, Devine noted, Garrett’s four-page report, done at no cost to the county, is only a summary and does not meet the standards needed for prosecution.

The report specifically says it is “not indicative of a forensic report produced for court.” Rather, “this type of report is used to make a recommendation” on “how to avoid such matters in the future,” the report says.

In an email to Devine, Garrett said the report does not contain the electronically stored information that Devine would need to prosecute or take civil action. Also, since the report was completed “pro bono,” it was not designed to satisfy the Civil Practice Act or Federal Rules of Evidence to be used in court, Garrett said.

“Further action may depend on the willingness of the Iroquois County Board to fund the forensic work that will need to be done to determine the existence of a criminal act or acts,” Devine said.

Garrett said Friday that he could complete “a full forensic analysis” that would “satisfy all rules” and be acceptable for Devine’s use as a prosecutor for a total fee of $5,000.

Garrett said the $5,000 fee would cover the completion of “expert reports” — totaling an estimated 100 to 150 pages per computer — for the three computers among the five examined that contained the most evidence of “personal use.”

Garrett said those computers were used by Corbett; Julie Clark, the health department’s public information/Freedom of Information Act officer; Cary Hagen, the agency’s financial coordinator.

The forensic reports Garrett would complete would involve more “in-depth investigation,” as well as documentation.

“It would build a story to show that it wasn’t for business purposes or (that files were not downloaded) at home on their home computer and transferred to their work computer,” Garrett said.

Copas said Friday that the county board’s policy and procedure committee, which he chairs, will be asked to vote during its next meeting on whether to pursue another forensic audit for court purposes. Copas said the item will be listed on the agenda for the committee’s meeting set for 9 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 26, at the Administrative Center in Watseka.

“I think there will be a pretty in-depth discussion, and I think it will be laid out very clear,” Copas said. “We’ll see where they go with it.”

If the committee votes in favor of doing the audit, the full county board would be asked to vote on the issue at its Dec. 9 meeting, said Copas, who will step aside from the board at the end of this month after losing his re-election bid.

Garrett’s forensic report that he delivered to the board on Wednesday was the second forensic audit done on the health department in the past year. The board of health last year paid $50,000 to have a forensic audit done of the agency’s finances for fiscal year 2012, and among the findings were the violation of bid procurement rules, the misuse of grant money, inaccurate budgeting and the revision of policies by management without the board’s approval.

Copas said he feels the actions uncovered constitute a charge of official misconduct, a Class 3 felony.

“If you think this is acceptable, OK. I don’t,” Copas said. “I wish I could put into words my disgust of what I have seen in the lack of prosecution for blatant criminal acts that have cost the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. It seems, justice is for some, but not for others. It depends on who you are, what you have and who you know.”

Comments

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Red Raspberry wrote on November 15, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Devine should excuse himself from the case.  I'm sure he is personal acquaintances of at least one of the people involved.  Come on Jim; make your $150k salary work for the citizens of the county.

jrgolfer4 wrote on November 19, 2014 at 7:11 pm

 It seems, justice is for some, but not for others. It depends on who you are, what you have and who you know.”  Mr. Copas is just now figuring this out??