Thursday, May 3, 2012
Cook County Sheriff To Fire McHenry County Board Member
Spokesmen won't say why the Sheriff's Office pulled Bless's badge and gun but it seems to involve his claim for Workers' Compensation. In a September, 2008, accident Bless's squadcar and one driven by a Minnesota safety inspector were inovolved in an accident in Schaumburg. The IWCC file is scant on details but Bless said he had severe injuries and claimed the Sheriff's Office wouldn't pay for their treatment.
"I had a broken neck. I've had three operations on my (right) shoulder and they denied me all the way through. I had to go through my own health insurance," said Bless when FEN spoke with him Tuesday at Cook County Circuit Court in Rolling Meadows. Bless, who's been holding down a desk there for the last nine months, indicated what the pending firing really hinges on is that even while he was on medical leave from the Sheriff's Office he kept on working as an attorney. Bless said his injuries impacted his legal work as well and Workers' Comp should pay for that, too.
Bless's law practice is also on shaky ground, however. The Attorney's Registration and Disciplinary Commission has a hearing scheduled next week on whether to pull his law license based on a charge that he bilked his mistress/client out of $120,000 in loans and payments in a complicated commercial real estate deal in Palatine four years ago. Bless has admitted the affair but denied the Wauconda widow was his client.
Bless had originally moved to have the ARDC hearing stayed because he was being investigated by a Cook County Grand Jury. He withdrew the motion the day after FEN reported he'd filed it. He said the investigation involved his business dealings with Katherine Scott, the woman who complained to ARDC. Bless said he didn't know the extent of the investigation. There are rumors the probe has run into statute of limitations problems. FEN tried to reach Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Liam "Bill" Reardon to ask about that Wednesday but no call was returned.
Whether a January civil suit against Bless which FEN found figures in all the investigations couldn't be determined. A pair of Fox River Grove restaurateurs claimed Bless rooked them out of part of an insurance settlement. Bless said he has a retainer agreement on file agreeing to the amount he took.
Cook County action to fire Bless "in the near future" isn't likely before July 19. That's the next time the Sheriff’s Merit Board meets in regular session. Meanwhile, Bless is currently a Republican District 1 candidate to retain his seat on the McHenry County Board.
Acting on a tip, FEN filed a Freedom of Information Act request for Bless's duty status Sept. 7 of last year. The Cook County Sheriff's Office replied that he was "an active employee" but claimed anything else was exempt from disclosure because there was an investigation going on. FEN appealed on the premise that changing an officer's duty might be the result of an investigation, but it obviously wasn't part of it. The AG's Public Access Counselor finally agreed and ordered Cook County to supply the information on April 24. The Sheriff's FOIA officer said she never got the notice so FEN had to have it sent again. The Attorney General's opinion on FEN's FOIA request for a police officer's duty status is not a citable one. It turns out the AG had already issued one of those in January because so many police agencies were trying to climb through what looked like a FOIA loophole.
In the pic: Fox River Grove's Bob Bless being sworn in to the McHenry County Board in 2008, three months after an accident he said incapacitated him. He told FEN his doctor said he only had to wear a neck brace if he thought he was likely to be "jostled." (McHenry County Blog photo.)