In My Opinion
By Caroline Porter
The more charges and union grievances are filed against Knox County State’s Attorney John Pepmeyer, the more convinced I am that he is the victim of a well orchestrated smear campaign. And the more people suggest I should stay quiet, the more responsible I feel for expressing what I believe to be the truth,
I was not elected to represent the County Board, but the people of this county. To clarify the situation in the Knox County State’s Attorney’s office, I would like to say the following. First, the employees of the State’s Attorney’s office work for and are paid by the government of Knox County and its citizens. They are not employed by the AFSCME union. The county employee handbook makes very clear what should be done in case of “sexual and other harmful harassment.”
Page 23 states: “Any employee who wants to report an incident of sexual or other unlawful harassment should promptly report the matter to his or her supervisor.” If it isn’t appropriate to contact the immediate supervisor or department head, (which in this case it was not,) then the County Board chairman should have received a written and signed report of harassment, which is provided in the back of the handbook. Then the board would have kept the allegation and investigation confidential, and taken action.
The first step listed is not “contact the Peoria Journal Star.” The actions of the employees and the union, not following proper procedure and using the news media to daily slander the state’s attorney, have hampered any kind of fair investigation or solution. From the outset, the state’s attorney has been indicted, tried and convicted by the union and the news media without the County Board even being part of the process.
Obviously, for any investigation to take place, other employees and supervisors must be questioned by the investigators. For the union to obstruct any investigation and the state’s attorney to try to work around employees he can’t trust is not in the best interests of the citizens of this county.
The handbook goes on to say that if the employee is not satisfied with the action taken by the county, they may contact the Illinois Department of Human Rights or the Illinois Human Rights Commission.
The courthouse and sheriff’s department AFSCME union locals have been irresponsible and destructive in this situation and, according to their contract, should not be in the courthouse or its offices during working hours talking about union business.
I also believe that no matter who had become state’s attorney of Knox County, he or she would be experiencing the same vengeance by those who are threatened by the cleansing activities of a new state’s attorney. So, Jeremy Karlin, thank your lucky stars. Those initiating the charges are employees of the office who were hand picked by former State’s Attorney Paul Mangieri, who I believe was heavily influenced by his wife.
I didn’t support the appointment of Pepmeyer in January because I am better acquainted with Jeremy Karlin, who was overwhelmingly endorsed by the Knox County Democratic Central Committee for appointment. But I am far less impressed with the State’s Attorney’s office staff trying to smear Pepmeyer and sabotage the work of his office.
But let’s examine the incestuous relationship between the people who are threatened by Pepmeyer’s efforts to straighten out old cases and pursue the case of a sheriff’s employee who has been accused of having sex with a Federal prisoner being held at the Knox County Jail. When things got hot for the employee, she was let out of the sheriff’s department and welcomed with open arms in the State’ s Attorney’s office. As a county board member, I received anonymous letters giving details of the whole sordid affair and assumed some kind of retribution would be forthcoming. The Sheriff’s wife works in the state’s attorney’s office. Another employee is the mother of Mangieri’s daughter-in-law. Mangieri’s son works in the sheriff’s department. The employee about whom these allegations have been made was active in Mangieri’s political campaigns.
Thompson used the same smear tactic against his opponent, Bill Robinson, in the last Democratic primary election, notifying the Register-Mail of a pending investigation of Robinson. Robinson is currently cleared for security work inside the Green Zone of Baghdad, Iraq. Thompson and Mangieri were the very people who promoted Pepmeyer for the State’s Attorney position and apparently thought he wouldn’t risk their wrath by doing his job. He seems determined to be a good state’s attorney and if he is pursuing cases which should have been investigated years ago, he is on the right track. Reportedly, for the first time in years, the State’s Attorney’s office is keeping up with its workload, even without the three fired assistants.
The cabal of the Mangieris and Thompsons has been known to threaten perceived enemies, including me. You may recall I wrote a column about Felicia Mangieri’s destructive interference in the State’s Attorneys office, causing good employees to leave, one with some violence. Her subsequent words and actions concerning me led me to contact the Galesburg Police Department.
My house was egged around the time I last criticized AFSCME. Other board members have received threatening phone calls over the years, one only last week.
Will Pepmeyer get a fair review from the office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan? That seems to be the question. Mangieri has had close ties with that office and family through his job and politics.
If anyone has a claim of a hostile workplace, it’s the State’s Attorney. I hope the entire County Board will soon see fit to take control of this situation.
Caroline Porter is a freelance write, a member of the Knox County Board and can be reached at .