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Board says no to Suits

Rejects panel pick for state’s attorney

M. Thomas Suits
M. Thomas Suits

OREGON – The Ogle County Board could not agree on a replacement Tuesday for state’s attorney John B. “Ben” Roe, despite a committee recommendation to appoint a Polo attorney to the position.

“I thought the board would respect the committee process – apparently not,” said board Chairman Kim Gouker, of Byron.

Following an hourlong closed session to discuss the appointment, the board rejected the selection committee’s recommendation to appoint M. Thomas Suits, 62, by a vote of 13-11.

Gouker said he does not have a back-up plan, but will review the state statutes to see how to deal with the situation.

Suits said he was “very disappointed, but I’m satisfied with the process. I’m very grateful to everyone who supported me and voted for me.”

Suits was one of four candidates interviewed last week by a committee of Gouker and four other county board members.

Gouker said Suits was the choice of all five committee members: board Vice Chairman John Finfrock of Mount Morris, and members Greg Sparrow and Bruce McKinney, both of Rochelle, and Bill Welty of Chana.

The other candidates for the position were attorneys Robin Minnis, Eric Morrow and Mike Rock. Rock is an assistant state’s attorney. Minnis and Morrow are former assistant state’s attorneys. Suits is Polo city attorney.

McKinney, who cast one of the no votes, said he was concerned about Suits’ lack of experience as a prosecutor.

“I believe that position needs a person experienced in prosecution,” he said. “Mr. Suits has limited prosecutorial experience.”

Suits has a private practice in Polo, and has served as the attorney for the city since 1991, prosecuting numerous cases in that capacity.

He also worked for the Ogle County State’s Attorney’s office as a senior law school student and for a time after he graduated law school at Northern Illinois University. 

He worked felony cases with an assistant state’s attorney during that time.

Not much time remains to name a successor for Roe, who will become a judge on Jan. 7, replacing retired Ogle County Circuit Judge Michael Mallon.

The Illinois Supreme Court appointed Roe to the judgeship on Nov. 8, 2 days after he was elected to a third therm as state’s attorney.

Although Gouker has the authority to make the appointment, he opted to involve the county board in the process by appointing  the selection committee to make a recommendation for the full board’s approval.

The person appointed will fill the first 2 years of Roe’s 4-year term. Then the office will be up for election in November of 2014.

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