Though I love Geneva, the one thing that drives me even crazier than some of you is how Mayor Kevin Burns and City Manager Mary McKittrick insist upon holding their cards so close to their chest.
It’s kind of like that dysfunctional family where the parents gently pat the hand of the addled kindly rich aunt who lives with them as they say, “Don’t worry dear! We know what’s best for you! Just sign the check.”
And so it is with the ongoing former Streets Superintendent Steve LeMaire saga.
You may recall that LeMaire stands accused of using a city credit card to make $24,000 in unauthorized purchases between 2003 and 2011. Sadly, after 33 years on the job, for a mere $250 a month, LeMaire lost that job, will likely lose his six-figure pension, and faces the Class 1 felony theft prospect of 15 years in prison.
But temporarily back to the addled aunt. To my knowledge, there has been no serious internal audit, and the remainder of the 21 city-issued credit cards are still out there. One can only hope Ms. McKittrick is actually checking the purchases these days.
Now, normally, as much as it pains me to say this, the city is right—you don’t discuss the particulars of a plea bargain while that possibility is being hashed out because it’s bad legal form.
But, in this case, at an April 19 status hearing, one of LeMaire’s defense attorneys let the proverbial cat out of the bag by commenting that Geneva had extended an offer that included some sort of restitution.
If this attorney’s strategy was to aggravate the you-know-what out of the city and get me to write a column about the merits of absurd legal maneuvers, then well-played, sir!
Of course, when pressed for details, both the lawyer and Mary McKittrick clammed up faster than a Secret Service agent in a Columbian motel. McKittrick told the Chronicle that she “cannot speak to any situation that is a legal process.”
Instead of “cannot,” she should’ve said “will not,” because that’s the truth. As States Attorney Joe McMahon told me, there is no law that prohibits the open discussion of the plea-bargaining process. So my feeling is, once the other side plays their hand, you may as well put your cards on the table, too.
And the silly thing is, even someone who graduated from Vito’s Law School and Hair Emporium already knows exactly what the offer is! C’mon, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure this one out.
Since LeMaire has no criminal record, the state will insist he cop to the highest criminal count—the Class 1 felony—because that will put an end to any pension possibility.
With our jails already crammed to the breaking point, what’s the point of housing another non-violent criminal? Not only that, but LeMaire’s family, who played no part in this theft, have already suffered enough.
The restitution part is obvious. I’m sure the city has asked him to forgo his accrued vacation time (they can’t take that away) which, considering his long tenure, will add up to a reasonable chunk of change. Then he’ll have to come up with the rest via some sort of payment plan.
And lastly, they’ll slap him with four years of probation and 200 hours of community service.
Meanwhile, the defense attorneys are likely asking for a “pre-trial diversion,” where they’ll offer a lump-sum payback if LeMaire can keep his pension. But that ain’t about to happen because the mayor's already dimming re-election chances would be dashed if he went along with it.
To be clear, though I'd bet good money I’m right, this is all conjecture, and no one leaked anything to me. When it comes to sentencing white-collar crime, our legal system is generally consistent.
Since LeMaire could probably use some good advice for a change, my counsel would be to fire his attorneys, take the plea and run with it. If he had any shot at pre-trial diversion—and I don’t think he really did—his attorney blew it.
But back to what really bugs me. LeMaire took the money from you and me, he didn’t steal it from Mayor Burns, Mary McKittrick or the City Council. Those were our tax dollars. That pre-trial offer doesn’t come from the city, it comes from us, the citizens of Geneva.
Again, there’s a point to keeping mum about legal proceedings, but once the defense attorney spilled the beans, we the people have the right to know exactly what offer is being made on our behalf. And it shouldn’t be up to some third-rate opinion columnist to keep the people of Geneva informed.