Fallout from Cook case: St. Clair County may expand drug testing

News-DemocratJune 5, 2013 

St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly.


In the wake of the arrest of Circuit Judge Michael Cook and probation officer James Fogarty on drug charges, the St. Clair County state's attorney's office will implement more stringent random drug testing of its employees.

State's Attorney Brendan Kelly said he also is researching the legal ramifications of an expanded random drug testing policy for all county employees.

"County Board Chairman Mark Kern and other county officials have requested I provide my legal opinion on how to update and strengthen existing drug policy throughout County government. I will do so," Kelly said.

Kern said Wednesday that public safety and highway department employees already are subject to random drug testing. Other employees are tested if they come under suspicion, Kern said.

"I'm going to hold off until I see the legal research," he said.

County Clerk Bob Delaney said he supported random testing for his office.

"I will be the first one to take it," Delaney said. "We need random testing. People are losing faith in the government. We are becoming a joke."

Circuit Clerk Kahala Dixon said she hasn't decided whether to implement a random drug policy and is researching the law before making a decision.

Tests in the state's attorney's office will be on random personnel at random times, Kelly said, because that's the most effective way to identify an illegal drug user. The tests can be office-wide or individual based on specific case assignments.

But Kelly already began drug tests for his staff.

"The employees of the St. Clair County state's attorney's office and I understand how important their integrity and reputation are to each other, to the public, to victims of crime and the criminal justice system itself," Kelly said.

"We are lawyers, but we are a special kind of lawyer. We are prosecutors. We represent the people of the state of Illinois. The people rely upon us to be above reproach. That's not easy sometimes, but it's the profession we've chosen. It's the call we've answered."

As of Wednesday afternoon, 57 state's attorney's employees have been tested, Kelly said. Two incoming employees and one contractual employee also will be tested, Kelly said. Kelly personally submitted a test last week, he said. As of Wednesday, no one tested positive, Kelly said.

St. Clair County Public Defender John O'Gara said last week that he has no plans to test his personnel.

"We have drug testing in the Probation Department as a regular part of the procedure," said St. Clair County Chief Judge John Baricevic.

Court services personnel, such as probation officers and court reporters, already are subject to drug testing.

Because they are elected, judges cannot be required to take a drug test, Baricevic said, but they can be asked to test if there is a suspicion that a judge is using drugs.

If the judge does not cooperate with the request, Baricevic said he would be obligated to make a complaint to the Judicial Inquiry Board, so it could investigate and take disciplinary action. Chief judges do not have the ability to discipline judges, Baricevic said.

Cook was the subject of a federal investigation that resulted in charges of misdemeanor possession of heroin and a felony count of a user of heroin in possession of a firearm. He pleaded not guilty and has resigned from the bench. He is in a drug treatment facility in Minnesota.

Fellow judge Joseph Christ died in March of cocaine toxicity while staying with Cook at a hunting cabin in Pike County owned by Cook's father, prominent Belleville lawyer Bruce Cook.

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