Daily Herald
Panel promises to be objective on Brown's report
Committee says it can ignore conflicts, ties to officials
By Steve Warmbir | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 5/29/2008 4:33 PM

First published: December 2, 1997

A seven-member panel vowed Monday to ferret out the truth in a recently released report that lambastes the police investigation of the Brown's Chicken mass murder. But questions arose on whether the panel, formed by the Illinois State Crime Commission, could do its job fairly.

Former DuPage County Board Chairman Aldo Botti, the spokesman for the panel, stressed panel members were approaching the 118-page report with an open mind.

"Wherever the chips fall, that's where it's going to be," Botti said during a news conference Monday to introduce the panel's members. The review will take more than a month, he said.

The Better Government Association last month released the report, which accused the Palatine Police Department of bungling the investigation of the January 1993 murder of seven people at a Brown's Chicken & Pasta.

Palatine Mayor Rita Mullins asked Jerry Elsner, the executive director of the state crime commission, to review the BGA report.

Elsner, in turn, selected volunteers for the review panel.

Neither the crime commission nor its members will receive any money for the review, Elsner said.

J. Terrence Brunner, the BGA's executive director, called the crime commission panel "a hatchet team."

The crime commission has praised Mullins in the past and one panel member has supported the Palatine police department when it faced criticism.

But Botti and others stressed the panel will conduct a fair, impartial review of the BGA report.

Elsner has made no secret of his dislike of the BGA after it released its report. He said the BGA held Palatine police officers up to public ridicule and hurt their families.

Brunner said the BGA had not set out to do that but "if you put out what happened, it's inherently tough on the cops."

Elsner said he is a man of honor and picked the best people he could for the panel.

"When you go to your grave, the only thing you can take is your honor," Elsner said. "I put together a committee of honor and integrity."

The crime commission named Mullins its first municipal leader of the year in June, and she sits on the state crime commission board. Mullins also comes under criticism in the BGA report.

Botti, an Oak Brook attorney, said Monday he had never met Mullins and that her connection to the crime commission would have no effect on the panel.

Another panel member, Morton Grove police Chief George Incledon, last year publicly questioned the sincerity of the BGA's motivation in issuing the report.

Incledon raised the issue in a resolution that was supported by the North Suburban Association of Chiefs of Police. Incledon was president of the group last year.

Incledon said the resolution was critical because he believed the BGA had already made up its mind that the Palatine investigation was bungled. Incledon said he would be fair in evaluating the BGA report.

Also sitting on the panel is Elgin police Chief Charles Gruber; Chicago police Lt. Joseph Murphy; Harold Kunz, a veteran Chicago homicide investigator; and Steve Admonis, police chief of Channahon in Will County.

One panel member has dropped out, Botti said Monday. Kevin Beese, a managing editor for Pioneer Press newspapers, decided there was a possibility of a conflict of interest by serving.

Brunner, meanwhile, is waiting for a call from the panel.

"We'd love to sit down with these people and show them what we've got," including internal task force documents, Brunner said.

Oak Brook attorney Aldo Botti, second from right, fields questions Monday at a news conference announcing a panel formed to review a report critical of the Palatine Police Department's handling of the Brown's mass murder investigation. Daily Herald Photo/Tanit Jarusan