DECATUR — Special prosecutor Stephanie Wong said a grand jury acted properly when it issued a report that described Macon County State's Attorney Jay Scott's office as "toxic and threatening" work environment and called for a third-party review.
Wong, a Bloomington attorney in private practice, was appointed by a DeWitt County judge last year to investigate allegations of misconduct against Scott. She declined to pursue criminal charges in a court filing last week that included the grand jury findings.
Scott on Wednesday denounced the grand jury report as "slanderous" and unlawful, and said the report went beyond the scope of what grand juries are authorized to do: find cause to file criminal charges, or not.
On Thursday, Wong issued a statement in response, saying that Illinois case law allows grand juries to "make any report they want."
"In light of the allegations against Mr. Scott and in the interests of justice, the citizens of Macon County are best served with the disclosure of the grand jury findings and the court appropriately exercised its discretion," she said.
Wong said Scott’s statement appeared to be an attempt to “invite a detailed response to proceedings occurring before the grand jury,” which she said she would not do. She did not respond to a phone message seeking further comment.
Scott, when reached by phone Thursday, said he stood by his previous statement. “I’m not gonna get in a back-and-forth over this,” he said. When asked if he was trying to get Wong to discuss the details of the grand jury investigation, he said “absolutely not.”
The allegations against Scott date to September 2016, when Macon County board member Greg Mattingley and attorney John Davis filed a petition seeking an investigation.
Scott, a Democrat, was facing Republican Dan Hassinger in the November election that year. Scott was accused of involving his staff in inappropriate political activity as he campaigned for re-election, an accusation that the grand jury found was one week beyond the statute of limitations for criminal charges.
He was also accused of asking employees to shuttle his children in county-issued vehicles and storing pornographic material on a county-owned thumb drive, both charges that the grand jurors said they did not believe could be proven.
The jurors also recommended forwarding their findings to the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, which investigates allegations of wrongdoing against lawyers. Those investigations are conducted behind closed doors, and Scott said Thursday that he did not know if he was the target of one.
While the grand jury called for a review of Scott's office and work practices, it is unclear who might conduct one. Macon County Board Chairman Jay Dunn and Mattingley both said Wednesday that they did not think it was the county board's place to do so, as Scott is an elected official responsible for running his own office.
Both Scott and Wong cited the same 1982 Illinois appellate court case in making their points about what grand juries are allowed to do.
The case involves a report issued by a grand jury in Marshall County in which the grand jury recommended drug and alcohol education programs and other general suggestions. A judge ruled that was outside of the jury’s role and declined to file the report in court records.
The appellate court sided with that judge. In a written opinion, the justices went on to say that grand juries can “make any report they want,” as Wong said, but juries are not required to make those reports and courts are not required to accept them.
No state law authorized a grand jury to file a report, the justices wrote. “A grand jury does not have a license to file as circuit court records general reports of social ills.”