Problems piling up for investigators of State's Attorney's Offic - FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

Problems piling up for investigators of State's Attorney's Office

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News & Better Government Assoc.) -

In 2012, FOX 32 and the Better Government Association watched as Veteran Cook County State's Attorney Investigator Robert Thomas spent hours killing time in a Bridgeport cigar shop while supposedly working for taxpayers.

When Thomas was asked what he was doing in the shop during work hours, he responded, "having lunch."

Shortly after FOX 32's confrontation with Thomas, he resigned. After that, the new head of the State's Attorney's Investigators Office, Jack Garcia, promised change.

"Everybody here has been put on notice that we will do what we're expected to do at all times," said Garcia.

However, fast forward two years and the problems just keep piling up.

"I think some people have horrible lapses in judgment. And then I think some people forget the oath that they took," added Garcia.

More recently, 67-year-old investigator Robert Hurst resigned in January after being caught visiting a casino while allegedly on the clock. This is among the latest embarrassments for the State's Attorney's police force, which was uncovered by FOX 32 and the BGA.

Another customer apparently spotted Hurst's M-plated Cook County car in the casino's parking lot. He denies doing anything wrong and told FOX 32 he just decided it's time to retire.

Last summer, 67-year-old investigator Lawrence Maderak was charged with drunken driving after he crashed his pick-up truck into a DUI checkpoint in Chicago Ridge.

The police report said Maderak tried to clout his way out of the arrest by telling an officer, "I've been a cop for 24 years. Give me a break."

Maderak was on medical leave from his job at the time of the accident. He pled not guilty and his case has not been resolved.

Also, 45-year-old investigator Terry Meagher was indicted by a federal grand jury on child pornography charges. Federal records said Meagher "knowingly and intentionally employed and used a minor...to engage in sexually explicit conduct."

Meagher, who racked up more than $130,000 in overtime over the past eight years, has now resigned. His attorney declined to comment.

"This is totally unacceptable for a law enforcement unit. They seem to have many more rotten apples than any law enforcement office ought to have," said Andy Shaw of the BGA.

Shaw said the State's Attorney's Investigators Office has long been known as a dumping ground for politically-connected cops. Many of these officers are already drawing public pensions after retiring from another police agency.

"And that's frequently a recipe for problems," added Shaw.

"I can tell you the actions of a few do not speak of the hardworking men and women of this bureau," Garcia said.

Commander Garcia said he can't speak to the hiring practices before he arrived. However, he's aggressively putting into place a series of reforms including a new evaluation process, worksheets and a radio dispatch system that uses GPS to monitor when and where the officers are during work hours.

"When the state's attorney appointed me…she had specific things she wanted done in regards to accountability and professionalism. And I work for that very hard every day," Garcia added.

In fact, Garcia said he recently disciplined four employees who were in charge of supervising Officer Hurst -- the one allegedly spending work time at the casino.

There are several other cases of investigators getting into trouble that pre-date Garcia's arrival, including an officer charged with a DUI while driving a county car out of state. There is also another officer who was voting for his political sponsor 20 miles from his home. They both remain employed in the office.

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