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Our view: Release McHenry evidence audit

Published: Wednesday, May 15, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Let the public see the audit.

That was our stance in January regarding the audit of the McHenry Police evidence locker in the Dale A. Hojnacki case. It is our stance today.

Hojnacki, an 11-year veteran of the police department, pleaded guilty to charges of theft under $10,000 and official misconduct for taking seized drug money.

In a recorded interview, Hojnacki said he took keys to the police evidence room, cut evidence bags with a razor blade along the integrity tape, then placed another layer of tape on top. In one instance, he replaced the money with photocopied $20 bills. He also admitted in the interview that he took pain pills and marijuana from seized evidence.

After charges were filed against Hojnacki, the city of McHenry hired an independent agency to conduct a more thorough audit of the police department’s evidence and property control system. Afterward, we learned that eight pending criminal cases might be affected by Hojnacki’s alleged interference with evidence.

At the time, the Northwest Herald was denied a Freedom of Information Act request for a copy of the audit report. In sealing the audit, now retired Judge Joseph Condon essentially said that its public release could hinder Hojnacki’s right to a fair trial.

So when Hojnacki pleaded guilty in January, we again asked for a copy of the audit report. This time, Judge Sharon Prather denied the request but said she would reconsider after Hojnacki’s sentencing hearing.

Hojnacki was sentenced in April, and Prather denied the release of the report but gave the Northwest Herald 30 days to file a motion asking that it be released.

The Northwest Herald has filed that motion and is awaiting a possible hearing regarding its request.

Taxpayer money is used to run the day-to-day operations of the McHenry Police Department, including paying for the salaries of the officers in the department. That is a large investment, and the public deserves to know how its police department is run and what happens inside of it.

Now that Hojnacki has pleaded guilty and has been sentenced, there is no good reason to continue hiding the report from the public.

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