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*** UPDATED x1 *** Commission tries to trade minor scoop to bury damaging story

Monday, Jan 31, 2011

* You may have seen this brief AP report on the wires over the weekend

Gov. Pat Quinn tells a newspaper that he has authorized Springfield attorney John Simpson to oversee an investigation into potential abuse of the workers’ compensation system.

On Friday night, Quinn released to the Belleville News-Democrat a letter he sent earlier in the day to Illinois Workers Compensation Chairman Mitch Weisz announcing Simpson’s appointment.

* The Quinn announcement was specifically timed to bury this Belleville News Democrat report

The arbitrator who approved many of the workers’ compensation settlements that awarded millions of taxpayer dollars to guards at the Menard Correctional Center for carpal tunnel syndrome received $48,790 for the same type of injury.

But four months after state hearing judge John T. Dibble received the settlement, the award was not listed in the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission’s online database, which is the primary way the public learns about these payments.

That’s because a key document, known as a settlement contract, never was assigned a case number, and the actual case file is lost, commission spokeswoman Sue Piha said. She said she does not know why the contract wasn’t filed or what happened to the case file, which would contain medical reports, and suggested that a backlog of unfiled cases could be responsible. […]

Dibble’s particular injuries were connected to an unusual form of carpal tunnel syndrome called post-traumatic carpal tunnel. A fall on the Herrin Civic Center steps as he was going in to hear cases later triggered the syndrome and led to the nearly $50,000 award.

* And how do we know that Quinn’s office Workers’ Compensation Commission tried to bury the item? Because Quinn’s office the Commission admitted exactly that

[Workers’ Compensation Commission spokesperson Sue Piha] offered the News-Democrat an exclusive story concerning imminent “major changes” that would be made in the workers’ compensation system in exchange for the newspaper holding the article about Dibble until Tuesday.

The offer of an exclusive story, which was overheard by the governor’s representative, was made as “leverage” to persuade editors to hold the Dibble story, said Piha. The reason for holding the article, she said, was so that it wouldn’t run until the day the state was ready to announce positive changes at the commission.

The day before, Commission Chairman Mitch Weisz made the same offer; it was denied.

Commissioner Dibble heard 125 of the repetitive trauma cases filed by 230 Menard prison guards, which ended up costing the state a total of $10 million.

*** UPDATE *** I just talked with a Quinn administration official who blamed this mess on the Workers’ Compensation Commission spokesperson. The Quinn people wanted to make sure they could get their guy into a story about a screwy situation at the Commission, I was told. Instead, it got translated by the Commission spokesperson as some sort of deal to delay publication of a story.

That actually makes some sense to me. So, I’ll lean their way on this one. Changed the headline and one line in the piece to reflect my updated views.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Wondering... - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 10:47 am:

    Yikes! Talk about the fox watching the chicken coop.

    On a more serious note, this is another example of a “broken system” here is Illinois that ends up costing taxpayers millions in needlessly spent money while the those supposed to be watching over as representatives of the citizenry sleep at the switch.

  2. - OneMan - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 10:51 am:

    Seems to me if you read the header on this..

    The relatively seldom occurrence of CTS in connection with a trauma requires therefore strict criteria for the evaluation of the casual context….. Finally in case of CTS the treatment should be given primary importance ahead of reimbursement for the injury.

    It might make sense to not have done most of the process via mail on this one.

  3. - GetOverIt - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 10:56 am:

    Oops. The commission really needs to adopt a few technological advances in order to track a case upon filing through settlement/decision. There’s no reason the system should hinge on whether a contract is filed or not.

  4. - Moved To Missouri - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 10:58 am:

    So Piha gets thrown under the bus…

    A screwy situation, and thankfully there are still somme actual journalists still digging for “public good” pieces like this.

  5. - Leave a light on George - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 10:58 am:

    I don’t know about a minor scoop but my gut tells me the w/c fraud involved is going to turn into a major embarrassment.

  6. - wordslinger - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 11:07 am:

    Great stuff in the BND. Clumsy spin by the spokesperson.

    Certainly, Dems and GOPers can get together to end this abuse, right? Something that will make both the lawyers and doctors unhappy?

  7. - Soccertease - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 11:12 am:

    Is the contract with Simpson for $9,999? If it’s $10,000 or over it has to be bid, doesn’t it?

  8. - ballplayer 4 - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 11:34 am:

    They need to compare Menard to Stateville and Pontiac. They have the same lock systems at those places. It has been told that Stateville had zero claims and Pontiac has had 3 or 4 claims.

  9. - KnuckleHead - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 1:59 pm:

    Come on Rich no story here ,as you know the Governor said after the “alledged” quid pro quo with Rep Gordon that he always does the right thing.

  10. - Amuzing Myself - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 3:09 pm:

    Well, gee whiz! Looky here!

    Amazing how much happens to be coming to light since November 2nd. Convenient, that…

  11. - Hyperbolic Chamber - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 4:19 pm:

    So Piha was speaking to the BND with a gov’s person listening, conferred with said person (whom, as a good trooper, she won’t identify) and THEN made the offer, which was the same offer made by Piha’s boss the day before?

    If she takes the fall for this, there is no justice.

  12. - David 28 - Monday, Jan 31, 11 @ 5:25 pm:

    Remember the early release. It was all the agency and Randle’s fault. Give me a break!

  13. - Fed up - Tuesday, Feb 1, 11 @ 9:09 am:

    Nothing to see here please move along. Tenements Quinn is the honest gov.

  14. - Small Town Liberal - Tuesday, Feb 1, 11 @ 9:50 am:

    - Nothing to see here please move along. Tenements Quinn is the honest gov. -

    Yeah, you’re probably smarter and better informed than Rich.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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