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Roe sworn in as judge, Rock named interim SA

More than 100 county officials and co-workers, family members, and friends turned out Monday to watch as Ogle County State's Attorney John B. (Ben) Roe was sworn in as a judge in the 15th Judicial Circuit.

The circuit's Chief Judge Val Gunnarsson administered the oath of office to Roe, 37, as well-wishers filled the courtroom where he will preside on the third floor of the Ogle County Judicial Center.

Roe thanked his family, co-workers, and others for their help and support over his career and pledged to do his best in his new post.

"I will strive to be fair and impartial and do this job to the best of my ability and to serve justice based on the principles and values that have been instilled in me," he said.

The 15th Judicial Circuit includes Ogle, Lee, Carroll, Stephenson, and JoDaviess Counties.

Roe, who replaces retired Judge Michael Mallon on the bench, will serve as Ogle County's resident judge.

He was elected to his third term as state's attorney Nov. 6, and two days later the Illinois Supreme Court appointed him to the judgeship.

A a few minutes after the Roe was sworn in, Assistant State's Attorney Mike Rock was named as his temporary replacement.

Ogle County Board Chairman Kim Gouker announced that Gunnarsson signed an order naming Rock as interim state's attorney.

Judge Robert Hanson administered the oath of office to Rock.

Gouker said Rock, 46, who has been the first assistant under Roe since December of 2010, will serve in the post until Jan. 15 when he anticipates that the county board will name a permanent replacement.

“As the first assistant under Ben Roe, Mike Rock was the natural replacement for this interim period, to provide the continued high level of administration of the cases currently under review by this office," Gouker said. "At the Jan. 15 board meeting, I will recommend a permanent replacement, and during this short eight-day period, this office will be in very good hands with State’s Attorney Mike Rock.”

Gouker said Jan. 4 that he will recommend Rock to the county board as Roe's permanent replacement.

Rock said he was pleased with the interim appointment and hopes the county board will give him the nod on Jan. 15.

"I appreciate the opportunity to serve the county as state's attorney," he said.

If approved by the county board next week, Rock will serve only the first two years of Roe's four-year term. The remaining two years will be up for election in November of 2014.

Contrary to what was previously reported, Gouker said he does not have the authority to appoint the state's attorney.

He said research into state statutes showed that the county board must make that decision. 

"I recommend and they approve," Gouker said. "The appointment must be made with the advice and consent of the county board."

Rock also served as an Ogle County Assistant State's Attorney from March of 1994 to June of 2000. He was in private practice in Rockford for the 10 and one-half years until he returned to the state's attorneys office.

Currently a resident of Poplar Grove, Rock said he and his wife and their three children will be moving to Byron in the near future.

Rock was one of four attorneys who applied for the state's attorney post late last year.

The county board rejected a selection committee's recommendation of M. Thomas Suits, Polo, for the post on Dec. 18.

Rock, Suits, and two others, Eric Morrow and Robin Minnis, were interviewed in early December by the committee made up of Gouker, board vice chairman John Finfrock, Mt. Morris, and board members Greg Sparrow, Rochelle, Bruce McKinney, Rochelle, and Bill Welty, Chana.

Gouker said state law requires that the county have a state's attorney, which meant someone had to hold the post as soon as Roe vacated it on Monday.

He said he opted to have Gunnarsson name an interim to serve until the board can decide at its regular meeting, instead of holding a special meeting to make the permanent appointment.

"This is so we don't have to have a special meeting," Gouker said. "It costs us $1,400 or $1,500 every time we have a special meeting."

The cost would come from the $50 each of the 24 board members would be paid to attend the special meeting, plus the 55.5 cents per mile they receive to travel to and from the courthouse where meetings are held.

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