McHenry County commissioner among 2 DCFS workers sued in AJ Freund case

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff WLS logo
Thursday, October 17, 2019
McHenry County commissioner among 2 DCFS workers sued in AJ Freund case
ABC7's I-Team reports that Carlos Acosta was campaigning for county office while conducting an investigation of abuse claims against 5-year-old AJ Freund.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- An elected public official in Chicago's northwest suburbs was named Wednesday in a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging that he bungled a child welfare investigation prior to the abuse and murder of 5-year-old AJ Freund.

McHenry County Commissioner Carlos Acosta, whose full-time job is working abuse cases for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, was assigned to investigate complaints about the Freund home received on the agency's hotline last year.

Acosta was running for election in McHenry County during the investigation and elected to the county commission in November of 2018.

AJ Freund was murdered in April of this year, and his body was found buried in a Woodstock farm field. His parents have been charged with first degree murder.

Attorneys for the little boy's estate filed a federal lawsuit in Chicago on Wednesday, alleging that what Acosta and his supervisor, Andrew Polovin, did "shocks the conscience." The suit claims the DCFS pair showed "inhumane indifference" in the months leading up to AJ's murder.

Acosta and Polovin ran a "sham investigation" into complaints received on the agency's abuse hotline, according to the complaint and falsified case reports.

ABC7's I-Team has learned that Acosta is still being paid an $89,000 state salary but is now on desk duty.

His supervisor, Polovin, is also off the street. He is still receiving his state salary of $123,000 per year, according to payroll records.

Both men - with more than 20-years on the job - ignored numerous red flags, according to AJ's estate attorney.

"Failed is inappropriate to say. They showed a complete reckless disregard for the safety of AJ," said Peter J. Flowers, the attorney for AJ Freud's Estate.

"Our job is to try to prevent tragedy," said Acting DCFS Director Marc Smith during an interview with the I-Team last summer. Smith said his staff needs to recognize patterns of abuse. While he declined to specifically discuss the AJ Freund investigation, he said investigators can't predict how people are going to behave.

"What we really require of our staff is to do their best work all of the time" Smith said. "I don't hold them accountable for tragedy. I hold them accountable for their work. To think about how you make good decisions all of the time. How do you take a step back and say to yourself and say I've made the best decision that I can."

DCFS isn't named as a defendant in the case.

On Wednesday night, a DCFS official told the I-Team that it is up to the Illinois attorney general whether Acosta and Polovin will be represented by government lawyers.

Mr. Polovin did not respond to our request for comment.