Joliet inspector general argues against dismissal of state police lawsuit

Attorney general’s office says IG has no grounds to sue

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

Joliet — Joliet Inspector General Sean Connolly was in a Will County courtroom Wednesday defending his standing to sue the Illinois State Police for not complying with a subpoena.

Illinois Assistant Attorney General Ashley Lonski is defending state police in the case and in October had moved for the suit to be dismissed for lack of standing.

Connolly sued state police in March, alleging that the department failed to comply with a subpoena he sent for investigation records. 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 case was dismissed in November 2022, yet Connolly has proceeded with his own investigation, which claimed that retired Joliet Police Chief Al Roechner and several others pressured Dickinson into filing the false report against O’Dekirk.

Lonski argued that the suit should be dismissed because Connolly had no grounds to sue for the records since as inspector general he only has standing to sue on behalf of the city of Joliet.

Judge John Anderson said that argument was not completely clear.

“There are several cases that would support that position and several that pretend it is not an issue,” Anderson said, addressing Lonski. “There is a lack of clarity in the law there.”

Connolly argued that he had permission from city officials to file the suit and that if he did not have the power to sue in his capacity as inspector general, then he should not be able to be sued in that capacity, which he can be.

Additionally, Lonski questioned whether an inspector general for a home-rule municipality has the authority to issue a subpoena to a state agency. He said state police had not ignored the subpoena but instead treated it as a Freedom of Information Act request and produced redacted versions of the requested documents.

“ISP has great interest in pursuing its investigation and has produced documents in accordance with FOIA,” Lonski said. “We’re not looking at a case where ISP has – full stop – decided to not comply with a request for documents.”

The redacted parts of the documents reportedly include information identifying confidential informants, which is privileged under the Freedom of Information Act.

“I don’t remember any documents being withheld in their entirety,” Lonski said. “The fact that some were redacted does not mean ISP did not cooperate with the inspector general. The redactions are pursuant to common law evidentiary privileges and procedures recognized by FOIA.

“Just like attorney-client privilege doesn’t end when representation stops, people who request confidentiality when presenting evidence don’t lose that privilege after an investigation ends. It’s done that way to ensure open communication with law enforcement.”

Connolly countered that home-rule standing gives the inspector general subpoena power.

“There is no law against that,” Connolly said. “The spirit of home rule is to put municipalities on par with the state unless there is a specific law prohibiting it. They say they treated it like a FOIA request, but I didn’t send a FOIA request, I sent a subpoena. They can’t choose to treat it like a FOIA.”

Connolly also argued that since, to his knowledge, the state police investigation into the case has concluded, his subpoena did not interfere with the agency’s work, and it had no grounds to deny the subpoena.

After hearing both sides, Anderson said he would take the matter under advisement.

“It’s an interesting case,” he said. “I will get a ruling to you as soon as possible, but I want to be thoughtful about it.”

The next status hearing on the dismissal has been set for 9 a.m. Jan. 23.