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Legislators question funds for Cook County through states appellate prosecutor

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(The Center Square) – State’s Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor Director Patrick Delfino was questioned in the House Public Safety Appropriations Committee about the office’s funding requests.

ILSAAP is seeking more than $46 million in fiscal year 2025, which is not an increase from 2024. In fiscal year 2023, the office received over $31 million. State Rep. Rita Mayfield, D-Waukegan, questioned the accuracy of the office’s need for the funds.

“I took the number that they have served in the last six months, and multiplied it by two … and it came out to $3.7 million, which is a lot less than $20 million.” Mayfield said. “My statement to them was, ‘Why not take less and if you need more we can give it to you as a supplemental as opposed to just keeping it flat with this large amount of money,’” Mayfield said.

ILSAAP represents the state of Illinois on appeals in cases originating in appellate districts with fewer than three million people when requested to do so by state’s attorneys.

Mayfield questioned the office’s funding needs because “we have so many other pressures as a state and that money could be better used as opposed to just sitting there and not being used.”

In fiscal year 2023, the agency received $21 million in just general funds, which is significantly more than Mayfield’s estimate for the cost of handling cases, this she places at $3.7 million. Mayfield emphasized that the office didn’t even need the general funding ($21 million of the $31 million total appropriated in 2023), let alone the additional funds that were appropriated.

“They [ILSAAP] thought that lots of people were going to do certain things because of the SAFE-T act that just have not materialized yet,” said state Rep. John Cabello, R-Machesney Park. “You never know how many cases are going to go to the appellate court. It’s like a police department, you can’t budget for how many homicides or fatal crashes you’re going to have. You just don’t know when people are going to do what they do.”

Mayfield said she isn’t convinced that ILSAAP needs what is in the proposed budget. Legislators must pass a fiscal 2025 budget with simple majorities before the end of May.

ILSAAP was also questioned about $6.9 million going to Cook County’s Treasurer to spend on cases there.

Cabello said the committee has to ask more questions. He assumes ILSAAP will come back so the committee can vet why ILSAAP is giving money to Cook County.

“Why are they [Cook County] receiving $6.9 million to do some prosecutions, when DuPage County is apparently doing the same thing and they get absolutely nothing,” said Cabello. “We have to figure out why the state’s appellate attorneys do 100 counties but not 102 counties. Then on the same page, the state appellate defenders are doing all of the counties except for Cook but they don’t give Cook any money.”

The Office of State Appellate Defenders defend alleged criminals in all non-Pretrial Fairness Act cases.

Cabello said ILSAAP should be prosecuting all the cases and that there’s a line item in the proposed 2025 budget for ILSAAP to not prosecute cases in all 102 counties.

“The State Appellate Prosecutors should be doing it all. I don’t trust the leadership of Cook County’s State’s Attorney’s Office to do any of this,” said Cabello.

Mayfield said the state is a “pass-through,” where the state sends taxpayer money to the Cook County Treasurer and then the money gets appropriated to a particular program where Cook County attorneys can prosecute cases.

Cabello said he hopes the committee takes out the $6.9 million.

Cook County “has been getting it [the $6.9 million], it was just in a different line, which is where the question came from,” said Mayfield, who said they are not going to look at taking that $6.9 million line item out of the budget.

Mayfield said she is interested to see if it’d be possible to shift to a DuPage county “model.” The ISAAP doesn’t prosecute cases in that county either.

“They say DuPage is self-funded. If DuPage is self-funded, and as large as they are, why can’t some of these other counties?” said Mayfield.