Following much ruckus in the media over comments regarding the effectiveness of the Winnebago County States Attorneys office, many held their breath as outgoing States Attorney Paul Logli (R) made his remarks during the Aug. 9 County Board meeting.
Logli, who has served in that office since 1986, was recognized with a plaque the night before he was sworn in as a Circuit Court judge. Attorney Phil Nicolosi (R) was sworn in as Loglis successor the same day.
During the County Board Republican Caucuss process of naming a new appointee for States Attorney, a number of statements were made, implying much improvement is desired in that office.
Logli began with a joke, in standard form, about how sad many board members must be to know this would probably be the last time hed be addressing the body.
Dont make me come back and have you restore the Financial Compliance Unit budget either! Logli jested, to much laughter.
You dont get into this line of work for plaques, praise or the pay, Logli continued. We do it because, in our hearts, we want to better our communities. We want to serve our neighbors. We want to improve the quality of life and the safety for all of the citizens.
As his comments went on, however, one got the sense Logli was directly responding to the recent allegations questioning the efficiency of him and his staff.
I believe Ive earned the right to speak candidly and respectfully to this body, Logli said. In the last several days, Ive spoken to Chairman Christiansen. We had a very nice visit yesterday, and we both agree its time to move on.
When Christiansen announced Nicolosi as his choice, the chairman indicated an immediate need for change in the States Attorneys officenamely in reducing the ever-present threat of jail overcrowding in the brand new Winnebago County Justice Center. The new facility is staffed to accommodate 800 prisoners and already has more than 700.
Thats a problem, and thats a problem thats gotta end now, Christiansen indicated. It needs to start with this office.
We need a States Attorney that will aggressively prosecute criminals, and that needs to be the buzzword of that office from top to bottom, the chairman argued. Ive got some very specific ideas on what needs to happen in that office in terms of organization and administrative functions.
When Christiansen reported a complete audit would be performed on the States Attorneys office, many interpreted it as a slap to Loglis face. Christiansen, however, said the audit was standard procedure.
I would also like to deploy our Human Resources Department to do a critical skills analysis, the chairman added, to look at overall staffing effectiveness.
During his Aug. 9 remarks to the board, Logli was quick to defend the dedication and loyalty of the staff hed leave in the care of Nicolosi the following day.
I hope that loyalty is recognized. I hope its acknowledged, Logli asked. Theres no doubt in my mind that the people of Winnebago County are safer because of the work of the lawyers, investigators, support staff, victim advocates of the States Attorneys office.
Things were reported in the media which would seem to question the States Attorneys offices effectiveness, organization and aggressiveness, Logli said. Let me just say, on behalf of the people who Ive had the privilege of working with, every lawyer in the States Attorneys office has a caseload. Every lawyer in the States Attorneys office goes to court.
During his interview before the caucus, Nicolosi alleged otherwise and argued a need for change. Nicolosis previous experience in the States Attorneys office is limited to an internship.
My big concern with the staffing in that office right now are the roles that specific attorneys have, Nicolosi told board Republicans. Im concerned that there are several attorneys there that, although they have law degrees and were hired as states attorneys, they do not go to court, and they do not have their own caseload. Now, Im not sure what the rationale was behind that.
Theres a couple, specifically, that I can think of that are in strictly administrative positions, Nicolosi added. Im not sure what experience these people have administratively for the positions that theyre in.
Nicolosi told the caucus hed been approached by friends and colleagues in the States Attorneys office whod expressed: A lot of frustration that theyre busting their butt, doing the absolute best that they can, and theres attorneys in there that have absolutely no case load whatsoever, and theyre trying to tell these lower and mid-tier people how to conduct themselves in court.
Citing a recent figure that 80 percent of the inmates housed in the jail are awaiting trial, Nicolosi argued: There has to be a more concerted effort. I just dont think that concerted effort has been done yet.
Logli also reported having spoken with Nicolosi in the final days leading up to their new appointments.
Im confident that he understands and that he accepts the importance of the States Attorneys office, Logli asserted. Hes going to work hard, and I know hes gonna give it his best. I wish him nothing but success in his administration.
A prosecutors office must maintain its integrity and its independence. Any prosecutor who allows either to be compromised does not deserve to remain in office. I know that Mr. Nicolosis committed to both these principles.
Logli and Nicolosi began their new career ventures Aug. 10. Christiansen, Logli and Nicolosi will fight to retain their seats in 2008.
from the Aug 15-21, 2007, issue