DIXON – Lee County State’s Attorney Henry Dixon is not efficiently and effectively prosecuting criminal cases, his opponent said this week.
Anna Sacco-Miller, 45, the Republican running against Democrat Dixon in November’s election, told the Sauk Valley Tea Party on Tuesday that her first priority would be management of cases.
“I will assign cases based on experience,” she said. “More experienced prosecutors should do felony prosecutions.”
She added the state’s attorney shouldn’t have prosecutors who “don’t know what they are doing” handling predatory sexual assault cases.
Dixon did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Sacco-Miller said crime has spiked in recent years, noting Dixon’s recent statement that the state’s attorney’s office has dealt with eight homicide cases. He was elected in 2008.
“We have a lot of people sitting in jail waiting for a resolution to their cases,” Sacco-Miller said. “They deserve and taxpayers deserve to have efficient prosecution of cases.”
In Lee County, drug dealers have received “slaps on the wrist,” Sacco-Miller said. In some cases, they have received 6-month conditional discharges, meaning they are not imprisoned as long as they meet certain conditions.
“How does that help the community?” she asked. “It doesn’t.”
Prosecutors should make sure that offenders get treatment so they don’t end up in court again, she said.
“The main drug in this area is heroin, which is the most addictive,” Sacco-Miller said. “We have a major drug problem in our community, whether we want to admit it or not.”
In an interview after her speech, she said Dixon, 78, who also served as state’s attorney in the 1960s, does not provide enough direction to his prosecutors. She said assistant state’s attorneys have come to her with questions about how to do things.
Sacco-Miller also said Dixon has trouble with the basic procedures of what are known as “preliminary hearing statuses.” In such hearings, she said, Dixon doesn’t seem to know what to do next.
“Sometimes I’m concerned with Henry,” she said.
Sacco-Miller beat attorney Andrew Bollman in the March primary election.
In 2008, Dixon prevailed over incumbent Democrat Paul Whitcombe in the general election.
Shortly before his election, Dixon promised that he would serve as the chief prosecutor. He said he would be in the courtroom “aggressively try[ing] cases.”
He also pledged to “restore maturity” to the state’s attorney’s office.
In office, Dixon has spent much of his time serving as the attorney for the County Board, one of the required functions of the state’s attorney’s office.
Candidate: Transcripts should be public
DIXON – Lee County State’s Attorney Henry Dixon maintains the county can keep the transcripts of its hearings on a proposed wind farm secret until it finishes the hearing process.
This week, his Republican opponent, Anna Sacco-Miller, joined those in questioning the policy. She said the transcripts should be made public on the county’s website.
“If they’re in the county’s custody, the county should put them on the site,” she said.
She made known her position during Tuesday’s meeting of the Sauk Valley Tea Party in Dixon.
Dixon declined to comment Wednesday on Sacco-Miller’s statement.
Sauk Valley Media has obtained an Aug. 23 letter from the Illinois attorney general’s office informing Dixon that it is looking into his decision to keep the transcripts secret.
On Aug. 9, Lee County attorney Frances Mitchell, representing resident Roseann Para, asked for the hearing transcripts, citing the state Freedom of Information Act.
Four days later, Dixon denied the request. Mitchell asked the attorney general to review Dixon’s decision.
The attorney general had two choices for dealing with the request: Dismiss the complaint or conduct a further review. In the Aug. 23 letter, Assistant Attorney General Steve Silverman informed Dixon that his office would do the review.
Silverman asked Dixon to clarify whether the county possesses the transcripts in question.
Lee County Zoning Administrator Chris Henkel has already confirmed that he has the transcripts in his office and has let people look at them. Officials haven’t explained why Dixon denied the request while Henkel is letting people read the documents.
In his denial, Dixon didn’t identify any exemption to the Freedom of Information Act to justify his decision. As the attorney general noted, Dixon cited only “unspecified” provisions of the county code and the Zoning Board of Appeals’ rules of procedure.
Silverman asked Dixon to identify the relevant exemption and provide a “detailed factual basis” for the denial.
In his denial letter, Dixon told Mitchell to order the transcripts from the private court reporter who has been hired to do the transcription. The reporter charges $2.50 a page. After four meetings, the cost of the transcripts would amount to more than $1,000.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, the county must give the first 50 pages free and charge up to 15 cents per page after that.
When Whiteside County held its hearings on the proposed wind farm, it posted the transcripts on the county’s website as soon as it received them, said Stuart Richter, the county’s planning and zoning administrator.
Since last year, Dixon has lost a couple of battles over open government issues. In early 2011, Franklin Grove’s village president, Bob Logan, appealed to the attorney general after the county barred public input at meetings of an ad hoc committee. Dixon defended the practice, but the attorney general cited state law that required public bodies to allow input.
Also in 2011, Sauk Valley Media challenged the Lee County Board’s practice of taking action on items that weren’t on the board’s meeting agendas. Dixon said the board informed the public of its pending actions through its various committee meeting minutes, saying the public had an obligation to review them. The attorney general sided with SVM.
On the web
Both Lee County state’s attorney candidates have websites. They are: electanna.com for Republican Anna Sacco-Miller, Republican: henrysdixon.com for Democrat Henry Dixon.