McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks maintained his innocence Thursday in the wake of revelations about an ongoing Illinois State Police investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct and asked that citizens reserve their judgement.
“I’m not going to say much about it today besides saying once again that I’ve done nothing wrong,” Franks said during Thursday's committee of the whole meeting. “And I will have more to say at the appropriate time.”
The County Board meeting was the first time Franks public addressed the allegations since news about the investigation broke. Franks has not been charged with any wrongdoing in connection with the allegations, although he has been banned for months from entering the state Capitol Building without a police escort.
“I remain dedicated to doing the people’s work, as we all should be, and if you want to score political points then please go hold a press conference,” Franks said. “But in this chamber, we will continue to do and focus on the people’s work.”
An Illinois State Police search warrant executed Jan. 29 at Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s Capitol office, stated that probable cause existed for the crimes of criminal sexual abuse, criminal sexual assault, official misconduct, stalking and aggravated battery against Franks.
The warrant sought a number of personnel files – including names and contact information of legislative assistants assigned to Franks – that contained information related to the allegations, which date back to Franks' time as a state legislator. Franks, a Marengo Democrat, served in the Illinois House from 1999 to 2017.
The news has prompted several lawmakers – including Rep. Allen Skillicorn, R-East Dundee, and Rep. Steven Reick, R-Woodstock – to call for Franks to resign as county board chairman. McHenry County Board member Carolyn Schofield (R-6) has proposed that the county board should conduct only state-mandated business as the investigation unfolds.
Franks, however, appealed to the public to wait until more facts are known.
“I’m asking everyone here and everyone listening at home and the people of McHenry County that I’ve humbly and aggressively represented over the past years to reserve their judgment,” Franks said.
Franks equated the situation to a corruption case against former McHenry County State's Attorney Lou Bianchi.
Bianchi and his executive assistant, Joyce Synek, were accused of conspiring to use county personnel and equipment for Bianchi's personal political benefit.
A total of 19 counts of official misconduct were filed against Bianchi, along with one count of unlawful communication with a grand jury witness. Both were indicted in September 2010.
But over the course of two trials, a judge threw out all counts against Bianchi and Synek without the defense ever having to call a witness.
In response, Bianchi filed a lawsuit accusing special prosecutors of fabricating evidence and concealing other evidence that would have shown Bianchi was innocent. He also claimed the investigations and prosecution of him were the product of a conspiracy initiated by political enemies to remove him from office.
“[Bianchi] was an innocent man who had been the victim of a politically motivated attack,” Franks said.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Dawn Mueller of Marengo said Franks was entitled to a nonpartisan presumption of innocence on the matter.
“That concept is so important to our judicial system and our charters of freedom,” Mueller said.
Mueller, who said she went to the same high school as Franks three years apart, said she never had seen Franks behave inappropriately toward women any inappropriate conduct and considered the allegations out of character.
But as a victim of rape and stalking, Mueller also said she wanted crimes against women taken seriously.
“I want to make sure that whatever happens that we are not watering down or undermining the true crimes that happen to women,” Mueller said.
Franks has been McHenry County Board Chairman for the past three years and plans to seek re-election in the fall.