BELLEVILLE — St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly said he stands ready to call for a special prosecutor to determine if County Coroner and fellow Democrat Rick Stone broke any criminal laws when he served hundreds of summonses without a license.
"I made crystal clear in writing my readiness to act to the Department of Professional Regulation. I have received no response," Kelly said in a statement.
On Friday, Kelly said he contacted several prosecutors in other counties to ask about the procedure he was using in the Stone matter, and said he was told, "It's the appropriate course of action at this time."
A spokesman for the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, which fined Stone in September a maximum $10,000, declined to comment about whether the department would cooperate in any potential criminal investigation.
Serving summonses without a license is a Class A misdemeanor. The $10,000 civil fine levied against Stone remains unpaid. He has not been cited for a criminal violation.
Stone, who was paid between $25 and $50 to serve hundreds of summonses for a private lawyer to summon persons to court who allegedly owed money to a local hospital, referred questions to his attorney, Bruce Cook, of Belleville. Cook declined to comment.
However, in July of last year, Stone told the Belleville News-Democrat that he believed state law allowed a county coroner to serve a summons. State law allows a coroner to serve a summons only when the county sheriff is legally prevented from providing this service.
A few months earlier, Stone had been contacted by St. Clair County Chief Judge John Baricevic who asked him if he had a required state license called a permanent employee registration card that would allow him to serve summonses under the direction of a licensed private investigator. Stone admitted he had no license and told Baricevic he would not continue to serve summonses.
He has said he asked Baricevic if he was in legal trouble and the judge replied he was no longer a prosecutor but that a penalty could arise if Stone continued to serve the documents.
Stone also conferred with Kelly and has said that when he asked if he was in trouble Kelly, "Laughed me out the door." Kelly has denied that happened. At the time in July 2011, Kelly said he believed that Stone did not realize he could not serve the documents and therefore did not exhibit "intent," to break the law.
The more than 1-year-old matter was revived in a Nov. 2 letter from Kelly to Mary Cay Marubio, chief of business prosecution for the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. In that letter, Kelly stated that if the department or any law enforcement agency with jurisdiction "applies for criminal charges based on investigated conduct occurring within St. Clair County," he would, "immediately appoint a special prosecutor to prosecute those charges as the evidence and law require."
Asked why the regulatory agency would need to "apply" for a criminal charge, Kelly amended his earlier statement and said that if the agency simply turns over its investigation regarding Stone, he would move to appoint a special prosecutor.
Asked whether he should wait for the agency or immediately request the records, Kelly responded, "State agencies like the Department of Public Health, the Department of Insurance routinely submit investigations to my office for cases like worker comp and insurance fraud. I made crystal clear in writing my readiness to act to the Department of Professional Regulation. I have received no response."
Last year, Stone said he used a late model Chevrolet sedan provided to the county coroner's office to deliver the summonses, and that in many cases did not actually hand the document to the intended person or a member of his family as state law requires.
Stone has said that health problems prevented him from climbing stairs and that he employed an assistant who he "kept in line of sight at all times," to actually serve the legal papers.
According to a survey of 30 payment claims signed by Stone attesting that he served the summonses, the documents were served after business hours or on weekends. He said he paid for gas for the publicly owned vehicle but did not keep receipts.
Legal experts have said that unless the person who receives the summons complains to the court that the service was improper, the summons is considered properly served.
Contact reporter George Pawlaczyk at email@example.com or 239-2625.