McHenry County clerk named in sanctions from federal judge in Cook County case

McHenry County Clerk Mary McClellan has said she did nothing wrong after her former office was recently slapped with sanctions from a federal judge for actions during her time as a Cook County assistant state’s attorney.\

The order for sanctions against McClellan of Holiday Hills and the Cook County State's Attorney's Office came Nov. 20 from U.S. District Judge John F. Grady, now retired. Grady's ruling says the office and its then-attorney "acted in bad faith" during a civil rights case against the city of Chicago and several police officers, according to U.S. District Court documents.

The lawsuit came from a Chicago family and claimed Chicago police arrested and filed false charges against several family members in 2008. The family sued in 2009 after its members were found not guilty of misdemeanor charges. Then, subpoenas for state's attorney files came after one of the family members again was arrested in 2012 by two of the officers involved in the lawsuit. The family claimed the arrest was in retaliation to the lawsuit.

After filing a 2012 subpoena, the family's attorney, Jared Kosoglad, said he was told by the state's attorney's office the files could not be found. After the family member was found not guilty of the second misdemeanor charge in 2013, Kosoglad filed another subpoena and was told the files were destroyed per office policy.

The U.S. District Court found that McClellan, who was sworn in Dec. 1 as McHenry County clerk, "recklessly adhered" to that position in court – that the misdemeanor files sought by plaintiffs didn't exist.

In doing so, McClellan said she was relaying information she received from the Cook County State's Attorney's Office, which she was representing. She was told the office policy called for nonjury misdemeanor files to be destroyed right after the trials, McClellan added.

However, the plaintiff in the case later found the documents filed under the wrong year after he received permission from Grady to do a search.

"We had gone through all of the 2008 and 2009 records and didn't find them, then the files were found, inadvertently, in 2010 records," said McClellan, who represented the office for just a portion of the case. "Now, was that human error? Did one of the secretaries or someone misfile it? That, I don't know."

The lawsuit from which this all stems was settled in May for $100,000, but the sanction could mean an additional $35,000 in legal fees.

"I've always acted ethically and within the bounds of the law," McClellan said. "I didn't do anything wrong."