‘He should resign’; Winnebago County Board has limited power to remove coroner

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — On Thursday, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said Winnebago County Coroner was lining his own pockets by stealing from dead people.

Members of the community have asked why Hintz still holds the position, but members of the Winnebago County Board say, as an elected official, there is limited power as to what they can do.

“These new charges are shocking. They really reach a new level from what was accused before,” Board Member Paul Arena (17th Dist.) said.

A Grand Jury indicted Hintz on six felony counts of theft and six counts of official misconduct for allegedly stealing property from the dead.

The indictments allege Hintz stole $2,500 from family members in order to recover the remains of their homeless loved ones, but kept the money for himself.

The indictment also alleges Hintz stole $14,500 in cash that belonged to deceased individuals, out of the coroner’s office evidence vault.

“It hurts. It’s frustrating. It’s disappointing. It’s everything,” Vice President of the Public Safety Committee, Aaron Booker, said Friday. “It’s not so easy to remove an elected official, unless they’ve been ‘cuffed and actually taken away, and walked out.”

Last year, Hintz and his wife, Michelle, were charged with misusing the County’s credit card, with $15,818 of government funds stolen in the crime.

“Being an elected official, we have to go through the Illinois State Board of Elections. We have to get the State Attorney General’s Office involved, and it sounds like they already are aware of the case, and have been involved,” Booker said.

On Thursday, Raoul issued a statement, saying, “The defendant has demonstrated a clear pattern of using the office of the Winnebago County coroner to line his pockets. The defendant’s actions took advantage of grieving families and abused the trust of Winnebago County residents.”

Booker said the Board’s hands are tied.

“We’re going to look at a recall and some type of impeachment process. A recall, we’ve got to look at that and if we don’t have that in place – it’s situations like this that cause us, as a board, to say, ‘ok, we’ve learned from this. Now, we have to put some measures in place in case this comes up again,'” he said.

Hintz’ lawyer, Mark Byrd, shot back at Raoul’s comments in a statement, “By interjecting his opinion on Mr. Hintz’s guilt or innocence in his media comments yesterday while the ink was still drying on the new Indictment handed down by a Winnebago County Grand Jury, Illinois Attorney Kwame Raoul has deliberately attempted and likely succeeded in tainting the potential jury pool in these cases.”

Byrd said Hintz will be entering a Not Guilty plea when he appears in court on September 22nd.

Arena said the board will try to take action against Hintz as soon as next week.

“What we intend to do now is file or pass a resolution, demanding he resign, which we hope he’ll do, because that would be the right thing for him to do,” he said.

Booker added, “We’re going to have to take the Attorney General’s direction and act as a board, and we’ve got to act swiftly on this.”

Winnebago County Republican Party Chairman Eli Nicolosi called for Hintz’ resignation late Friday, saying, “These new charges only underline the severity of his crimes, and are unbecoming of any elected official; especially a Republican. He should step down and allow a person of integrity and strong morals to take over as coroner.”

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