Happy behind the scenes

DeWayne Bartels
North Peorian Matt Jones is the associate director of the State's Attorney Appellate Prosecutor's office.

Matt Jones has been a behind-the-scenes kind of guy in state government for years. Roaming the halls of the state capital and talking to legislators as a lobbyist has been a way of life for the North Peorian for years.

As a lobbyist, he forwarded causes, but did not get the credit for advances. Jones watched the cynicism of the public about government grow over those years. But, still, he lobbied.

One of his clients was the State’s Attorney Appellate Prosecutor’s office. He lobbied part-time for the agency, selected for the job because of his past as a prosecutor in the office of the Peoria County State’s Attorney.

While lobbying for the agency he sought and, in February, was appointed to the job of associate director.

“I am in-house now as the face of prosecutors in Springfield,” Jones said.

Jones said he considers it a dream job in an agency very, very few people are familiar with. Jones said while the office is relatively unknown by the public, it is an important state agency overseen by a board of state’s attorneys, including Peoria County State’s Attorney Kevin Lyons.

“Our primary work is to do appellate work for state’s attorneys. Our agency writes the appellate briefs for the prosecuting side,” Jones said. “It’s a specialty.”

The attorneys in his office and attorneys in the office of the State Appellate Defender’s office then argue cases before the appellate court for both the prosecution and defense.

Jones said a case he is working on right now for the Whiteside County State’s Attorney illustrates the importance of the office. A man in that county is charged with having unprotected sex with as many people as he could. The man is HIV-positive.

The state’s attorney claims the man knew he was HIV-positive. The man has claimed he did not know.

The man, who had spent time in the Illinois Department of Corrections, would have been informed he was HIV-positive while in prison. The state’s attorney wants that information. But, the IDOC will not release the information, citing patient confidentiality.

“We’re fighting to get a narrow exception for this type of information to be available to prosecutors,” Jones said. “That’s the kind of thing I do all day. My goal is not to focus on the stupid, but the truly evil.”

Jones said his responsibilities are wide. But, of late, his efforts have been aimed at the agency’s Web site.

“My main duty is information support. The old Web site was horrible,” he said.

Jones began updating the Web site in February. While pleased with the leaps forward the site has made, Jones said he is still not satisfied it is all it can be. He calls it a work in progress.

The Web work has been long and grinding.

“Our motto is this is not your grandfather’s agency,” he said.

Because there is so much to do to advance the agency, Jones said he loves his job.

“What I like about it is there’s always something new. It’s as close as I can come to the fascination I had trying cases in Peoria County.”

But, that is not the sole reason this job satisfies him, Jones said. Satisfaction also comes from being in a position in a government so vilified as corrupt from every direction. Jones sees himself as being in a position to change perceptions.

“I like people who tilt at windmills. I’m the eternal optimist. Like others, as I’ve aged, I’ve grown more cynical about one man changing the world. The problems in government are real, systematic and feel overwhelming,” Jones said.

“But, I have a 3-year-old son. All I can do is try to make things better where I live for him. I can’t transform Illinois. But, I can plant a garden where I live. You change things by pulling one weed at a time, planting one row at a time and cultivating one garden at a time. I can’t try every case. I can’t make the general assembly act the way they should. All I can do is make an impression by not lying to anyone I deal with.”