The fiasco in the Courthouse: we don't know what we don't know

By Norm Winick



We at The Zephyr are asked all the time "What's going on in the State's Attorney's office," and "Why don't you print more of what you know?"

There is an easy answer: We really don't know for sure what the hell is going on.

There are charges and counter-charges going in all directions. There are internal and external investigations by at least four organizations or agencies. There are accusations of sexual harassment, incompetence, malfeasance, missing files, dropped cases, a hostile work environment, employees going AWOL, and even felonious acts.

If you do a GoogleŽ search for "Federal Prisoner Fraternization," (one of the accusations), stories about the Knox County State's Attorney's office top the list.

We do know there has been a lot of irresponsible reporting including many unproven accusations by all sides.

We do know that some allegiances have been shattered and everyone is absolutely confident they are right and will be cleared by the investigations they have requested.

We do know some of the history and it is entertaining in its own right.

The current mess started when Paul Mangieri accepted an appointment as a Circuit Judge. Some of the subsequent accusations go back further than that, of course, but they never would have seen the light of day had not there been a new State's Attorney.

Mangieri announced his supported for one of his assistants, Dean Stone, (now terminated) to be his successor. He also opined that the appointment of a replacement had to be made before he assumed his position as judge.

The Democratic Precinct Committeemen of Knox County (57 of 60 were present) caucused at the Galesburg Labor Temple. They heard from two candidates, John Pepmeyer and Jeremy Karlin. Stone had withdrawn just prior to the caucus for reasons unknown. After free-flowing discussion on the merits of both candidates, the caucus voted to recommend Karlin. Outgoing State's Attorney Paul Mangieri and Sheriff Jim Thompson both had spoken on Pepmeyer's behalf — Mangieri quite eloquently. Karlin had worked hard for the vote and had contacted most of the Committeemen prior to the caucus.

County Board Chair Allen Pickrel (a Republican despite a Democratic majority on the Board) only brought up Pepmeyer's name. He got all seven Republican votes and one Democratic vote, that of Paul Hevland, and was named State's Attorney.

Hevland was praised in the AFSCME Council 31 newspaper by Staff Rep Randy Lynch for supporting his union brothers and sisters over his party. Lynch and union President Judy Johnson (a Republican and wife of a GOP County Board Member) had also endorsed Pepmeyer.

Now, two and a half  months later, all these former allegiances have collapsed. AFSCME is representing employees charging Pepmeyer with sexual harassment and  creating a hostile workplace environment.

Pepmeyer has fired some of Mangieri's most loyal supporters, is investigating others, and has contended that the office wasn't running well at all under his predecessor.

Some of the County Board Members who had supported Karlin are jumping to Pepmeyer's defense.

The Attorney General, State Police, and the FBI have all reportedly been brought into the various investigations — while Pepmeyer is conducting internal queries and AFSCME is looking into the multitude of grievances that have been filed.

We have no clue which ones will be found to have merit and who may be vindicated. When we have something factual to report, we will.


Published March 29, 2007