A job opening has been posted for Effingham County Chief Public Defender even though current defender Lupita Thompson has served in that position for 16 years and has no intention of leaving.
Resident Circuit Judge Kimberly Koester acknowledged Tuesday she has advertised for the public defender position.
"We opened it up to see what kind of candidates were available," Koester said, adding she is not ruling out appointing Thompson for another year for the $149,000-per year job. She said the solicitation of candidates for the job should not be construed as a reflection on Thompson's job performance.
"This has no bearing on whether or not she (Thompson) has done a good job," the judge said. "It's just with the salary and responsibilities of the job, I believe we have a responsibility to find the best possible person for the office.
"We're just exploring our possibilities."
Koester denied that she was seeking to replace Thompson for political reasons. The judge is a Republican, while Thompson is a Democrat.
"The position is not a political position," the judge said. "The rumor that I want a Republican in that position is completely untrue.
"I haven't even inquired about the political affiliations of the applicants. Political affiliations will not be a factor in my decision."
Resident circuit judges in each Illinois county appoint chief public defenders without county board approval. Thompson has worked on an annual appointment since her initial appointment in 1997.
Thompson declined comment Tuesday, other than to acknowledge that she is seeking re-appointment.