A Republican candidate for Will County State’s Attorney is accusing county officials of conspiring to keep him off the ballot for the November general election.
Ricardo Muñoz, a Plainfield lawyer running against Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow, accused his opponent of trying to get a special counsel appointed to give legal advice on a potential challenge to his candidacy in “secret.” Will County GOP Chair George Pearson said at a news conference on Friday the “secret” proceeding was “disgusting” and “abhorrent.”
But representatives from the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office and the Will County Clerk’s Office said seeking a special counsel was not at all secret and was appropriate.
On Monday representatives from the state’s attorney’s office appeared in court to ask for a special counsel.
Mary Tatroe, the chief of the civil division in the state’s attorney’s office, explained that since a potential legal challenge could arise to Muñoz’s candidacy, there would be a conflict of interest, according to a court transcript. That’s because the county clerk’s office typically seeks legal advice from Glasgow’s office and Muñoz is running against Glasgow.
Chief Judge Richard Schoenstedt said he did not question the validity of the motion, although he said it was “premature,” since at that point on Monday morning, Muñoz had yet to file as a candidate and no objection had been filed against him being on the ballot, according to the transcript.
Later that afternoon, the Republican party did file for Muñoz to be its candidate for state’s attorney after the court appearance on Monday.
Still, Schoenstedt appointed the DuPage County State’s Attorney as the special counsel to give legal advice to the Will County Clerk’s Office.
Tatroe also pointed out that DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin is a Republican. Glasgow is a Democrat.
As to the accusation of secrecy, Tatroe said the state’s attorney’s office never filed to seal its motion.
Chuck Pelkie, the chief of staff to Will County Clerk Lauren Staley Ferry, said the state’s attorney’s office notified them of the motion for a special counsel.
The Republicans argued Friday the county clerk “anticipated seeking an opinion on whether she could refuse to accept the Republican candidates’ petitions on the very last day they may be filed.”
Pelkie refuted that claim.
“The intention of the clerk at all points was to accept those petitions when they were filed and to allow the process to play itself out,” he said.
Indeed, the clerk’s office did accept the petition to place Muñoz on the ballot on Monday and he was listed as a candidate for state’s attorney on the clerk’s website.
Still, Muñoz said the state’s attorney’s office should not have been the one to file the motion for a special counsel since it was “conflicted.” He said the county clerk should have filed the motion.
Tatroe said the state’s attorney’s office is the entity that represents county government offices in court and it was not unusual to seek a special counsel. Plus, it’s the decision of the court to approve a special counsel.
Bill Thoman, chairman of the Will County Democratic Party, said he thought it was “very appropriate” for Glasgow to recuse his office from the matter to avoid a conflict of interest.
Thoman dismissed the Republican argument that there was any wrongdoing.
“It’s bluster,” he said.