ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — A judge granted Winnebago County Board Chairman Frank Haney his right to a personal lawyer to represent him for county business.
Haney believed Winnebago County State’s Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross couldn’t represent him and the county board in county litigation.
Haney had petitioned once before but wasn’t successful. This time, Judge Donna Honzel dismissed the State’s Attorney’s motion to dismiss Haney’s petition for a special counsel and sided with the chairman.
“The judge found that there was enough contained in the petition to go forward,” said David Kurlinkus, Chief of Civil Bureau at the Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s Office. “I believe they’ll file, I think, it’s going to be another case.”
Haney says by diminishing his powers, the county board worked against the voters who elected him into office.
“There’s a social contract that [voters] have when they cast a vote for somebody, its to go in and do a particular job, whether that’s chairman, mayor, county board member, council member,” Haney said.
The judge also ruled Ken Florey, Haney’s personal lawyer, could act as his special counsel.
Florey argued the chairman’s role shouldn’t be changed mid-term.
“Vested rights, that’s what it was vested rights,” Kurlinkus said. “If you listened to the judge, I think that was primarily her reasoning for doing it.”
Haney says changes to county roles and responsibilities should be done during elections.
“I think that’s how we’ve always done business,” Haney said. “I think that actually puts the power in the hands of the people who elect folks.”
“You don’t go through all that you go through to get to a position like this, not wanting to be part of the discussion,” Haney said.
Haney says his goal is to restore the county board chairman position to when he got elected.
“When we’re done with all this nonsense, we got to really focus again on the issues that matter to people: infrastructure, public safety, economic development,” Haney said.
Haney’s legal team has 30 days to file a petition to argue the ordinance that limited his powers.