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McLean County Board rejects board appointment; Knapp appointed circuit judge

The McLean County Board voted 8-7 against the appointment of Krystle Able to the board to finish the remaining months of Matt Coates' term.
Eric Stock
On Wednesday, the McLean County Board voted 8-7 against the appointment of Krystle Able to the board to finish the remaining months of Matt Coates' term.

Republicans on the McLean County Board used a razor-thin majority Thursday to reject the temporary appointment of a board candidate described by a police union official as “anti-police.”

Also during Thursday’s board meeting, chairman John McIntyre announced the Illinois Supreme Court has appointed McLean County State’s Attorney Don Knapp as a judge in the 11th Judicial Circuit effective Sept. 16 — moving up the timeline of his transition to the bench following his primary election win in June.

Appointment rejected

The county board voted 8-7 along party lines against the appointment of Democrat Krystle Able of Normal to the seat in District 4 that covers parts of Normal.

Able, who is an organizer with the Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans, was the only candidate to file file for the vacant seat on the board. Matt Coates stepped down last month when he was named to the Illinois Prisoner Review Board.

The appointment would have been for 3 1/2 months.

Cory Wills, president of the McLean County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 176, told the board during public comment on Wednesday that Able would “cause great division within the community” and on the county board if she was appointed. He referenced social media posts saying Able has advocated defunding police and defunding Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“We do not need someone on the board who has such extreme anti-police views,” Wills said.

Able pushed back on that characterization, saying she wants adequate funding and training for all first responders. She expressed support for the end of cash bail in Illinois and other criminal justice reforms that Illinois lawmakers have approved.

“The state of Illinois seems to feel the same way. That’s why we ended cash bail, that’s why we passed the Pretrial Fairness Act and I stand behind all of those things,” she said, adding she expected Republican opposition to her candidacy, referring to a culture of “extremely partisan politics.”

“There seems to be a line in the sand that’s been drawn between anybody with a 'D' behind their name and anybody with a 'R' behind their name,” Able said.

The county is required to appoint someone of the same party as the board member who left. Democrats Jim Rogal and Hannah Beer were absent for the meeting as was Republican Gerald Thompson.

McIntyre, who did not vote on the appointment, said the county will reopen applications until noon on Aug. 22. The board plans to hold a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 26 to fill the vacancy.

Able said she intends to apply again for the temporary seat, adding she was disappointed Republicans disregarded that the Democratic party slated her to run for one of two seats in District 4 in the November election.

“I am not giving up the fight for this seat,” she said.

Rogal also is running in District 4, along with Republicans Steve Harsh and Jerry Klinker.

Judge appointment

Knapp tendered his resignation as state’s attorney on Thursday, effective Sept. 16, after the state’s high court named him a circuit judge. Knapp defeated associate judge Amy McFarland in the Republican primary in June. Knapp would have been unopposed in the November election.

McIntyre said the county will seek applications from candidates seeking to serve the remaining two years and three months of Knapp’s term. They are due at noon Sept. 7. The county board’s executive committee plans to interview candidates at its Sept. 12 meeting, with the full board expected to select a candidate at its Sept. 15 meeting.

In other business, the county board:

  • Approved an update of the county’s hazard response plan. The county updates the plan every five years with help from about two dozen other McLean County villages, towns, schools and health care agencies. The city of Bloomington signed off on the plan on Monday.
  • Hired Scharnett Associates Architects of Bloomington for $26,600 to study how the county and City of Bloomington can better use space in the Government Center, which the two governing bodies share. The city moved a bulk of its city offices out of city hall and into the Government Center last year. According to county documents, several city and county departments have “expressed a need for additional space to effectively continue to serve its constituents.”
  • Approved a $58,600 contract with RW Vandegraft Painting and Decorating of Hudson for painting and plaster repair at the McLean County Museum of History.

Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.