Joliet inspector general says ex-city leader greenlit state police lawsuit

Inspector General Sean Connolly leaves the podium after speaking on conspiracy allegations against Joliet Mayor Bob O’DeKirk during the City Council Meeting at City Hall in Joliet on Monday, March 13th, 2023.

Joliet’s inspector general said the former city manager gave him permission to sue the Illinois State Police when the agency refused to comply with his subpoena for investigation records.

It’s been eight months since Joliet Inspector General Sean Connolly filed a lawsuit against Illinois State Police over a subpoena he sent to the agency.

Connolly’s subpoena sought records regarding the state police investigation into former Joliet City Council member Don Dickinson’s allegations against former Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk in 2020.

After the investigation, Dickinson was charged with falsely accusing O’Dekirk of threatening him. The special prosecutor who filed the charge made no objections to a judge dismissing the case Nov. 15, 2022.

Even with the case dismissed, Connolly pursued his own investigation and later claimed that retired Joliet Police Chief Al Roechner and several others organized to pressure Dickinson into filing a false police report against O’Dekirk.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office, which is defending the state police in Connolly’s lawsuit, said the Joliet inspector general has no power to sue.

In an Oct. 30 court filing, Connolly contended that he has legal standing to file a lawsuit. He also said former Joliet City Manager James Capparelli gave him permission, through the city’s legal department, to file the lawsuit against Illinois State Police.

Capparelli resigned from his post in June.

Ashley Lonski, an assistant attorney general, still insisted in a Nov. 13 court filing that the power to sue belongs with the city’s legal department. She said Connolly has no legal authority to “file and pursue a claim on his own; instead, the claim must be filed on behalf of the city of Joliet.”

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.

Connolly and Lonski are expected to present their case Wednesday during a hearing before Will County Judge John Anderson.

Lonski’s argument that Connolly has no power to sue rests on a 2013 Illinois Supreme Court ruling in a case called Ferguson v. Patton.

The court ruled that 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 for one of his investigations.

In response, Connolly pointed to a section of the Supreme Court decision in which the justices said they rejected the idea that Ferguson “lacked standing,” or that he had no “real interest” in bringing a lawsuit in the first place.

“In accordance with Ferguson, the [inspector general] has real interest in the matter and therefore has standing to bring this suit,” Connolly said in the Oct. 30 court filing.

Still, the Supreme Court ultimately concluded that there was nothing in the city’s ordinance at the time giving Ferguson “the authority to file proceedings in circuit court to enforce any of the ordinances pertaining to his responsibilities under the Chicago Municipal Code.”