By Greg Bishop
Illinois News Network
An Illinois Prisoner Review Board member found to have used racial slurs during his time as a Coles County Sheriff’s deputy won’t comment on the issue.
Illinois’ PRB handles good-conduct hearings, reviews parole issues for certain offenders, and makes clemency recommendations. One of the 14 members on the board, former Coles County sheriff’s deputy John Clough, was appointed early last year by Gov. Bruce Rauner and then was approved unanimously by the Illinois Senate in October.
Citizen investigators Edgar County Watchdogs used public-records demands of the Coles County sheriff’s office to find Clough had been disciplined for using the N-word twice in his official duties as a sheriff’s deputy.
“The appearance is not good,” ECW’s Kirk Allen said. “And we later confirmed that there was no vetting done. Nobody ever contacted the sheriff to find out if this was a good, qualified candidate.”
Independent corrections monitor John Howard Association’s Jennifer Vollen Katz said there’s no place for racist sentiments on the PRB.
“To think that someone who has been disciplined for using that kind of language, racist language, would be deciding the fate of people caught in a system that is majority African-American is really troubling,” Katz said. “I’m glad it’s come to light. And I applaud the local watchdog organization that found all of this information and went through his personnel file. To me it speaks to the importance of watchdog organizations … who are acting as a backstop.”
Requests for comment from the PRB were not immediately returned.
“These are serious allegations and we are reviewing them,” Rauner spokesperson Rachel Bold said.
Allen said that’s not good enough and Clough needs to go.
“[Clough] should step down,” Allen said. “He doesn’t need to be in a position making any type of recommendations on prisoners with this in his record.”
ECW also found Clough used a county vehicle to deliver political petitions for a failed bid to be sheriff and provided inaccurate financial disclosures.
Clough is also the chairman of the Coles County GOP. According to the State Board of Elections, the previous chairman resigned in June 2016.
When called for comment, Clough said he’s been advised not to comment on the issue because of a pending inspector general report that was filed late last year.
Clough is paid nearly $86,000 a year for being on the PRB.