Special prosecutor requested in Rock Island County whistleblower lawsuit

Court gavel generic

Some board members say a special prosecutor is needed, to handle a lawsuit filed by a former county employee against Rock Island County and county board chairman Phillip Banaszek.

Former county human resources director Margaret Hoskins filed the action May 21, 2014 in Rock Island County Circuit Court.

Hoskins alleges she was pressured to be part of a scheme to help county board member Steve Ballard qualify for a pension from the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund from both of his positions as Forest Preserve Commission President and as Chairman of the Forest Preserve Committee.  State law requires the worker to perform more than 1,000 hours in each position to qualify for a pension from IMRF.

Hoskins says she spent several months refusing to cooperate with the alleged scheme, during which she says she also reported her concerns for possible criminal violations to Rock Island County State’s Attorney John McGehee.

Hoskins claims her refusal to cooperate with the alleged scheme eventually resulted in her being fired by the county for reported “performance issues.”

Her lawsuit claims her termination was retaliation and not justified, and she is asking for more than $50,000 from Banaszek plus another judgement in excess of $50,000 for back pay and benefits with interest, plus attorney’s fees and other damages for emotional distress.

Less than a week after Hoskins’ lawsuit was filed, Rock Island County Board Minority Leader Drue Mielke said a special prosecutor was necessary for the case to be handled fairly.

McGehee has a conflict of interest because Hoskins reported her concerns to him, Mielke claims.

“Ms. Hoskins’ lawsuit makes serious allegations of criminal conduct by officials and employees of Rock Island County, ” Mielke said.

The case was scheduled to be first heard in court September 18, 2014, but District 24 County Board Member Ron Oelke says the case needs to be heard sooner.

“Due to the allegations of criminal conduct, we have asked that an independent investigation be conducted as soon as possible…considering the seriousness of the allegations,” Oelke said.

Read it here:   Hoskins vs Rock Island County and Banaszek lawsuit

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