* 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.