Raises approved for McHenry County prosecutors and public defenders

Officials said the raises were necessary to keep up with other Chicago-area counties

McHenry County State's Attorney Patrick Keneally  answers a question from Lake County Judge George Strickland during the fifth day of the trial for the former Illinois Department of Children and Family Services employees Carlos Acosta and Andrew Polovin before Lake County Judge George Strickland on Friday, Sept. 15, 2023, at the McHenry County Courthouse. Acosta, 57, of Woodstock, and Polovin, 51, of Island Lake, each are charged with two counts of endangering the life of a child and health of a minor, Class 3 felonies, and one count of reckless conduct, a Class 4 felony, related to their handling of the AJ Freund case.

McHenry County prosecutors and public defenders will be receiving pay raises after a McHenry County Board vote Tuesday evening.

Three board members voted against the raises: Michael Skala, R-Huntley, Gloria Van Hof, D-Crystal Lake, and Kelli Wegener, D-Crystal Lake. Board member Brian Sager, R-Woodstock, was absent Tuesday.

The board discussed the proposal at a County Board meeting Feb. 15, at which several members said they had issues with the raises coming up several months after the budget was approved rather than during the budget process.

No debate took place on the proposals Tuesday, but Skala last week brought up his concerns about discussing raises now, saying that approving such increases would set a precedent.

Wegener agreed with Skala on Thursday regarding the raises, noting that she would vote no without changes to the proposal.

Van Hof also had concerns about the proposal coming up outside of the budget process, saying that the county recently approved a new elections center outside the budget process.

“This, to me, is excessive,” Van Hof said about the larger salary increases.

Wegener, who is running to unseat County Board Chair Mike Buehler, accused McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally on Thursday of filing lawsuits for political gain.

Both Wegener and Kenneally later apologized during that meeting.

Proponents argued that McHenry County salaries for prosecutors and public defenders are lower than other Chicago-area counties, making it difficult to attract and retain lawyers.

With the new salary ranges, assistant state’s attorneys and public defenders will start at $75,000, while the starting salary for principal assistant state’s attorneys and principal assistant public defenders will be $99,000.

Chief assistant state’s attorneys and deputy chief assistant public defenders will start at $160,000.