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Official stops political activity

Secretary involved with emails gone

Published: Monday, Dec. 24, 2012 1:15 a.m. CDT

DIXON – Lee County State’s Attorney Anna Sacco-Miller said Friday that she would not tolerate political activity in her office.

A secretary in the state’s attorney’s office, who apparently helped in the campaign of Sacco-Miller’s predecessor while on the clock, no longer works there.

State law bans the use of government offices, equipment and personnel for political campaigns; a violation of that law is a misdemeanor.

Sacco-Miller, a Republican who took office Dec. 1, said she had let her employees know that she was serious about keeping politics out of the office.

Earlier this month, Sauk Valley Media obtained documents from the county that showed political activity had taken place in the state’s attorney’s office during the recent campaign.

The documents had been drafted in the weeks leading up to the November election, in which Sacco-Miller defeated Henry Dixon, a Democrat, who had been elected in 2008.

The documents came from the office computer of Sandie Cargill, Dixon’s secretary for 42 years. Many of the letters included the initials “sc,” indicating Cargill had drafted them.

In one letter, addressed to a Sacco-Miller campaign contributor, Dixon wanted to know why the contributor helped his opponent.

“Do you have some problem with the way Lee County criminal cases have been handled at this end?” Dixon wrote.

Sacco-Miller had planned to keep Cargill on the staff, but as of Tuesday, Cargill no longer worked there. Sacco-Miller wouldn’t say why.

In an interview Friday, Dixon said Cargill had been fired. He blamed this newspaper’s reporting about the political emails for his ex-secretary’s termination.

“You caused an absolutely wonderful woman to lose her job,” Dixon said Friday. “She lost her insurance. She was a great county employee.”

Sacco-Miller said some people had questioned why her office wasn’t doing a criminal investigation of the political activity in the office before she took over. She said her agency’s job is to prosecute, not investigate.

She said she wasn’t aware of any police investigation, but that if she received a request to prosecute, she would immediately send the case to an outside special prosecutor.

It is unclear how much taxpayers’ time that Dixon and Cargill spent on the campaign; in October, Dixon persuaded the County Board to allow him to hire another clerical employee, saying his office was understaffed to handle several pending murder cases.

Sauk Valley Media obtained the political documents from the state’s attorney’s office through a public records request.

The issue had come up before.

In 2011, Sauk Valley Media obtained a letter that Dixon had written to his 2008 opponent, Paul Whitcombe, in which he discussed politics. It was on official letterhead from the state’s attorney’s office. Dixon speculated on the campaign ahead and said he wanted to “make peace” with Whitcombe.

Cargill had typed the letter.

At the time, watchdog groups questioned Dixon’s use of official letterhead for a political letter.

In the latest documents, Dixon’s office used his home address.

But experts on such issues say they still violate the law because office personnel and equipment were used.

Cargill couldn’t be reached Friday for comment.

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