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St. Clair County Expands Drug Testing Months After Judge’s Overdose

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Booking photo of former St. Clair County Circuit Judge Michael Cook of Belleville.

Booking photo of former St. Clair County Circuit Judge Michael Cook of Belleville.

CBS St. Louis (con't)

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BELLEVILLE, Ill. (KMOX) - With a former circuit judge and county probation officer facing drug charges in the case of a cocaine overdose of another judge, St. Clair County is expanding its drug testing policy.

The St. Clair County Board voted unanimously this week to approve the new policy to test those employees who have access to drugs, work with confidential death investigation records, and work directly with students.

The American Civil Liberties Union says the new policy opens the county up to lawsuits but Mark Kern, the St. Clair County Board Chair, disagrees.

“We don’t really believe that that’s so. We think that this policy is consistent with what the law allows and the State’s Attorney’s Office took a lot of time to do research so we believe that this will withstand any sort of court challenge,” Kern said.

Under the policy, a positive urine test for illegal drugs can get an employee fired but Kern says department heads can offer substance abuse treatment instead. A second failed test would require termination.

The new policy also covers elected officials but Kern says they can opt out.

In June, a federal grand jury indicted St. Clair County Circuit Judge Michael Cook on heroin charges after the March death of his colleague, Judge Joe Christ, who died from a cocaine overdose at Cook’s hunting cabin in western Illinois.

The case later expanded to associates of Cook and prompted St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly to conduct drug tests on his entire office.

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