Judge says coroner must pay own legal fees

By on July 9, 2010

Kane County—A judge on Friday ruled that the Kane County Coroner Charles West must finance his own legal defense of charges of official misconduct.

Associate Judge T. Jordan Gallagher ruled that West, not Kane County, is responsible for the cost of the legal expenses.  

West was indicted May 18, 2010, on five counts of official misconduct, each a Class 4 felony, for failing to perform his mandated duties while acting in his official capacity as required by Illinois law. West is accused of failing to properly dispose of a TV belonging to the estate and heirs of a deceased man.

Attorney David J. O’Connor, appointed by Judge Gallagher to argue on behalf of Kane County that the county should not be responsible for the cost of West’s legal representation, told Judge Gallagher that the Illinois Constitution prohibits the use of public money for private purposes.

“Using public dollars to litigate private matters would be a huge mistake,” O’Connor said.

Judge Gallagher agreed, but said he might be willing to revisit the matter.

The outside attorney is necessary because Kane County State’s Attorney John Barsanti, as part of his duties, represents county officials in legal matters. However, because the legal dispute is between two county parties, Barsanti cannot represent either party because of an inherent conflict.

West is being prosecuted by the Office of the Illinois State’s Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor.

The charges against West are not proof of guilt. West is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial in which it is the state’s burden to prove his or her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.