Illinois AG: Joliet inspector general has no power to file a lawsuit

Joliet IG suing Illinois State Police for investigation records

Illinois State Attorney General Kwame Raoul addresses members of the community on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021, at Joliet Area Historical Museum in Joliet, Ill. Illinois State Attorney General Kwame Raoul and his team held a small meeting with community members after his announcement of a civil investigation into the Joliet Police Department.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s Office contends the inspector general in Joliet has no power to file a lawsuit, such as the one he filed about five months ago for investigation records from the Illinois State Police.

Aug. 23 marked the first time Raoul’s office has responded to a March 14 lawsuit from Joliet Inspector General Sean Connolly, who is suing the Illinois State Police. Connolly filed the lawsuit when state police refused to comply with his subpoena for records from their investigation regarding former Joliet City Council member Don Dickinson’s allegations of blackmail against former Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk.

No charges were filed against O’Dekirk. Instead, Dickinson was charged with falsely claiming he had been threatened by O’Dekirk. A judge granted Dickinson’s attorney’s motion to dismiss the charge on Nov. 15.

Ashley Lonksi, assistant attorney general in Raoul’s office, filed a motion Aug. 23 that argued the Joliet ordinance does not grant Connolly the power to file a lawsuit. She also disputed Connolly’s authority to compel a state agency, such as the Illinois State Police, to provide him “unfettered access” to its investigation records.

Connolly is seeking records from Illinois State Police for his own investigation into what he alleged was a conspiracy by retired Joliet Police Chief Al Roechner and several others to pressure Dickinson into filing a false police report against O’Dekirk.

In Aug. 23 motion, Lonski said there was nothing in the city ordinance for the inspector general position that said Connolly had the “power to prepare or file court proceedings on behalf of City of Joliet or himself.”

Instead, Lonski said that power rests with Joliet’s corporation counsel, who represents the city in legal matters.

Lonski pointed to a 2013 ruling from the Illinois Supreme Court that said former Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson lacked the authority to retain private attorneys and sue the city for failing to comply with a subpoena he issued during his investigation.

“Because [Connolly] lacks the power to file a lawsuit, the court must dismiss the complaint,” according to Lonski’s motion.

Inspector General Sean Connolly leaves the Will County Courthouse on Wednesday, April 12, 2023 in Joliet.

Lonski said the city ordinance directs Connolly to refer complaints or information to prosecutors or the appropriate federal, state or local law enforcement authorities.

Lonski further argued Connolly’s lawsuit should be dismissed because he has no authority to issue a subpoena to Illinois State Police.

“All levels of government have an interest in ensuring the integrity of elected officials and the proper use of public resources. … But a unit of local government cannot interfere with the state’s interest in safeguarding the integrity of its law enforcement processes,” Lonski said.

Connolly’s lawsuit contends he has the power to issue subpoenas because Joliet is a home rule unit. Cities and villages in the state that have home rule status “may exercise any power and perform any function pertaining to its government and affairs,” according to the Illinois Constitution.

However, Lonski argued local government cannot “interfere with the state’s interest in safeguarding the integrity of its law enforcement processes.” She said the state has a “vital interest” in ensuring Illinois State Police investigations into public corruption are “free from interference.”

Lonski said the state police are not required to “provide unfettered access to its criminal investigation records under home rule authority powers.”

Since Connolly filed his lawsuit, Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow has motioned to intervene in his case and have it dismissed. Glasgow considers the ordinance that created Connolly’s position to be unconstitutional.

In response, Connolly claimed Glasgow is trying to shield himself from his investigation since his name came up in some of the records he received on the Illinois State Police investigation. Connolly received those records after state police treated his subpoena like a Freedom of Information Act request.

Judge John Anderson has not yet ruled on whether Glasgow can intervene and have Connolly’s case dismissed.

Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow attends a rally for ZONTA Says No To Violence Against Women outside the old court house on Tuesday in Joliet.