One of the defense attorneys in the La Salle County auditor case, is claiming State’s Attorney Karen Donnelly went after the auditor’s office, because of “professional and personal disputes” with Auditor Jody Wilkinson.
Deputy Auditors Tori Artman and Pamela Wright were charged Sept. 25 with taking pay for overtime work they did not do. Auditor Jody Wilkinson is charged with facilitating the alleged scheme. Mendota lawyer Todd Martin is representing Artman and Wright; Ottawa lawyer Joseph Navarro is representing Wilkinson.
Donnelly has filed a request to have Martin removed from the case, because of potential conflict of interest. Donnelly said Martin could have an improper advantage, because he was with the state’s attorney’s office part of the time during which the alleged overtime pay was being taken.
Martin has hit back, saying Donnelly is the one who should be kicked off the case.
Martin said Donnelly, as state’s attorney, has a duty to represent the auditor’s office, as well as prosecution witnesses, several of whom are county employees or county elected officials.
In Martin’s view, these witnesses are compromised, because they may testify favorably for the state’s attorney out of fear of what could happen if they don’t.
Martin subpoenaed transcripts of closed sessions, since Sept. 25, of the county board and the board’s Salary and Labor Committee, which dealt with the auditor situation.
Martin said he believes Donnelly brought up with the board, after the auditors were charged, the issue of firing or suspending the auditors, as well as prohibiting them from entering the auditor’s office. Martin further said the deputy auditors were called to a meeting Dec. 14 with county board officials to go over their “conduct” as county employees.
Donnelly took these steps to gain “leverage” and “coercion” against the auditors in the criminal case, according to Martin.
Wilkinson and her deputies remain on the payroll, but are banned from their office.
Donnelly is fighting the subpoena, saying the closed session transcripts are protected from release by law.
Martin also alleged Donnelly launched the criminal investigation into the auditor’s office, because of her “professional and personal disputes” with Wilkinson. Specifically, Wilkinson refused reimbursement for a number of items Donnelly bought for the state’s attorney’s office.
The situation culminated in an “altercation” at a county board committee meeting in which Wilkinson refused reimbursement for a book Donnelly bought for her office, for which Donnelly did not have a receipt, Martin said.
About 30 minutes after the altercation, Ottawa police detectives arrived at the auditor’s office to question the auditors, Martin claimed.
Ottawa police handled the auditor investigation.
Martin wants Donnelly and her staff replaced on the auditor case by a special prosecutor. If this happens, Martin said he will withdraw as defense attorney.
The next court hearing is Friday, Jan. 25 before Circuit Judge Cynthia Raccuglia.