DIXON – The investigation of a former Lee County employee has been closed without charges being filed.
In January, the county received information that while Kathy Lalley, the former assistant director of the Lee and Ogle Transportation System, was in the county-owned Reagan Transportation Center, she asked other LOTS employees to sign a petition to get John Simonton on the ballot for the sheriff’s race in the March Republican primary election.
Simonton defeated incumbent Sheriff John Varga, 57 percent to 43 percent, in the election.
The investigation was done by the Bureau County Sheriff’s Office and included interviews with LOTS employees and Lalley.
Lee County State’s Attorney Anna Sacco-Miller sent the investigative reports to the offices of two area state’s attorneys and the Illinois Attorney General’s Office because her office had a conflict of interest, she said, having represented the county in an employment dispute that ended with Lalley’s resignation in March.
“I received a response from all agencies contacted that they would all decline prosecution of this investigation,” Sacco-Miller said in an email on Tuesday. “It is now officially closed.”
Lalley didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The investigative reports were obtained by Sauk Valley Media through a Freedom of Information Act request after Sacco-Miller announced the investigation had been closed.
The investigative report named specific employees who signed the petition, but Sauk Valley Media has declined to reveal their names.
According to the report:
While in a county-owned building, Lalley asked several LOTS employees to sign a petition and even pressured some employees to sign after they at first declined.
Lalley’s husband, Kevin Lalley, was campaign manager for Simonton.
On one occasion, Lalley entered the dispatch area of the transportation center and started to circulate the petition, and when some Varga supporters objected, Lalley “told them it doesn’t matter and just to sign it so Mr. Simonton could be a candidate.”
One employee reported signing the petition to avoid being “targeted, but not reprimanded for not doing so.”
The employee didn’t feel threatened and wasn’t physically forced to sign the petition, but felt pressured by Lalley’s status in the department, the investigator was told.
Other employees told the investigator they felt pressured to sign, and signed even though they didn’t support Simonton or knew they didn’t have to sign.
However, another employee didn’t feel pressured to sign the petition and could have said no.
Seven LOTS employees, in addition to Lalley, were interviewed as part of the investigation, according to the report.
Lalley resigned March 19, a few days after she submitted her resignation. She had been on paid administrative leave for about 4 months before she resigned.