Mason City has a new police chief. Anthony McClure, hired during a special city council meeting held Aug. 31, once worked for Illinois State Police as a master sergeant. His state career ended in 2015, when the Illinois State Police Merit Review Board terminated him, finding that he was untrustworthy and unfit to be a police officer. He'd had sex with a co-worker in police headquarters as often as four times a day and twice lied about it, losing his job only after investigators installed surveillance cameras inside a conference room and outside a room set aside for nursing mothers.

McClure had no comment when I called to ask about his new job. Mayor Bruce Lowe also said "no comment" when I asked why McClure, given his record, had been hired, whether he'd previously worked for the department and the amount of his salary.

Meanwhile, Leann Shirley, who once worked with McClure at state police headquarters, has become a defendant in a federal fraud case. Shirley first came under investigation in 2013, when state police discovered text messages suggesting that she'd been trying to relay information about the sex-while-on-duty investigation to McClure, whom she considered a friend. State police have refused to say what discipline, if any, she received. Last year, Shirley, who worked in the department's background investigation unit, fell under suspicion again and was placed on administrative leave after being accused of stealing from the Illinois State Police Heritage Foundation, the private nonprofit that created the memorial to fallen officers alongside state police headquarters on Sixth Street.

The July indictment contains scant details, aside from Shirley, who has pleaded not guilty, standing accused of wire fraud, with a restitution amount of nearly $75,000 in play. A public defender was appointed after Shirley, who last collected a state paycheck a year ago, told the court that her $3,960 monthly pension wasn't sufficient to pay a lawyer plus meet obligations that included more than $39,000 in credit card debt.

On the marijuana front, things aren't coalescing for Gov. JB Pritzker, who tried to reinvent capitalism by creating a licensing system from outer space, bamboozling legislators into thinking we could give a leg up to the disadvantaged by limiting the number of pot licenses and charging lots of money. This being Illinois, 21 out of more than 900 applicants now are in the running for 75 licenses set to be awarded via a lottery that may or may not happen, given litigation and requests for injunctions. All the winners and most of the losers qualified as so-called social equity applicants under the law designed to help folks who otherwise might not succeed in the weed biz. The governor is crab-walking backward, acknowledging change is needed. Toi Hutchinson, the former state senator who got the law passed and is now paid $220,000 as the state's cannabis czar, muses that we shouldn't have allowed single applicants to apply for an unlimited number of licenses – depending on how ping-pong balls are drawn, a dozen or fewer entities that could afford application fees could end up with all the licenses.

There is no word yet from the Department of Agriculture on who will get 40 growing licenses that were supposed to be awarded in July based on how the wishful filled out applications that look a lot like dispensary applications. I once wrote that we should put Jesse White in charge of weed, and that might still be a good idea. What the governor and legislature have done looks like a budding mess.

Remember Xuesong "Gary" Yang? He's the former recruiter for University of Ilinois Springfield who's serving a six-year sentence for raping a 17-year-old student within days of her arriving in the United States. The university paid Yang, who was considered a contractor, to bring students, and offshore tuition, to Springfield. What Yang did seems clear enough, thanks to Springfield police and Sangamon County prosecutors, but exactly how UIS responded and whether the university exercised good judgment in its recruitment program wasn't clear, and so Illinois Times in 2017 asked the attorney general's office for help obtaining records that the university refused to disclose. Last week, we got an answer from the attorney general that is somewhat a mixed bag. While UIS was entitled to keep some records confidential, other things, the attorney general said, should be disclosed, and UIS flouted the law in refusing to give the attorney general more than 400 pages of files held by the university's ethics office to determine whether they should be disclosed under the state Freedom of Information Act. The attorney general's opinion has no weight of law – the deadline to issue a binding ruling has long passed -- but better late than never.

Meanwhile, Illinois Times sued the state Department of Corrections last month for settlements awarded inmates, or their estates, alleging poor health care. The state Supreme Court in December ruled that such records must be disclosed, but we've gotten nothing from Wexford Health Sources, which hasn't disputed that the court decision applies to them. We sued after getting no help from the attorney general, who's supposed to referee disputes over records. We sought help in January and figured we've waited long enough.

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.

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