Brendan Kelly's advice: 'Strong and broad drug testing' after courthouse scandal

News-DemocratJuly 29, 2013 

St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly.

BND

St. Clair County Brendan Kelly has advised the County Board to enact a "strong and broad drug testing policy within the limits of the Constitution."

Kelly addressed the legal consequences of a more stringent drug testing policy on Monday during a committee meeting of County Board members. He was asked by County Board Chairman Mark Kern and other county leaders to research the issue following a drug scandal involving two St. Clair County judges and a probation officer beginning in March.

The details of the drug testing policy were discussed in a closed session meeting of the County Board's Judiciary Committee. The new policy will require multiple amendments to the county's existing personnel code by an ordinance which has to be approved by the full county board, Kelly said.

"I laid out potential areas of litigation that must be avoided and the interaction of a new drug policy with existing labor agreements," Kelly said."I advised enacting a strong and broad drug testing policy within the limits of the Constitution and I believe there will be a consensus and support among the county officials to do so."

The state's American Civil Liberties Union previously criticized the proposed expansion saying the tests are misguided, costly and a violation of a person's privacy.

County employees with the public safety and highway departments are already tested for drugs. Elected officials, including judges, are not required to be tested.

The push for more stringent drug testing follows the cocaine overdose death of St. Clair County Circuit Court Judge Joe Christ. Christ died at the hunting lodge of his friend, former Circuit Judge Michael Cook, in Pike County.

In May, Cook resigned his judgeship and was indicted on federal drug and weapon-related charges. Cook has agreed to a suspension of his law license and the Illinois Supreme Court approved the suspension on July 15.

The suspension remains in effect until the Supreme Court rules otherwise.

Former St. Clair County probation officer James Fogarty also faces federal charges for allegedly intending to distribute cocaine and possessing a gun while being a drug user.

News-Democrat reporter Beth Hundsdorfer contributed to this article. Contact reporter Daniel Kelley at dkelley@bnd.com or 618-239-2501.

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