Sheriff's office criticizes new cemetery rules signed by Quinn

February 7, 2012

Some regulations on cemeteries in Illinois will soon be scaled back. On Monday, Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill that reduces licensing fees and penalties for some infractions.

A few years ago, the state legislature passed stricter regulations after it was discovered workers at Burr Oak Cemetery in Chicago's south suburbs were digging up bodies and then reselling the plots.

"The individuals that did the horrific tragedy at Burr Oak, the way that this language is currently written and passed and signed now, would allow them to come back to work at Burr Oak without any questions," said Frank Bilecki, a spokesman for Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.

Dart's office investigated the scandal at Burr Oak.

Bilecki criticized parts of the new law, saying employees at cemeteries should have to get background checks.

Meanwhile, supporters of the measure say the penalties were too burdensome on cemeteries that did nothing wrong.

State Sen. Emil Jones, III, a Chicago Democrat, said the new law will be good for smaller cemeteries, many of which are run by municipalities or not-for-profit groups.

"Cemeteries are modest enterprises, they're not cash cows," Jones said. "For a lot of rural areas and smaller towns you have volunteers who come in and work at the cemetery. They should not have to go through the process of being fingerprinted and going through a background check."

Burr Oak Cemetery is in Jones's senate district.