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This. Must. End.

Friday, Jun 29, 2012

* Yesterday, we discussed the Belleville News Democrat’s story about how the Inspector General for the Department of Human Services refused to investigate suspicious deaths of people in home care because they were dead and, therefore, under his insane interpretation of state law, no longer qualified for DHS services.

As you might imagine, legislative reaction has been furious

“It is very disturbing to say the least,” said Sen. William Haine, D-Alton. “I think the OIG owes each and every member of the General Assembly a full explanation of these facts … I think this calls for some supplemental legislation that should involve other stakeholders like state’s attorneys and coroners.”

State Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, chairman of the House Human Services Committee, refuted the OIG’s interpretation of the 2000 law that gave it increased powers to investigate abuse and neglect of disabled adults who live outside of state facilities.

“It doesn’t seem to be that there’s any lacking of specificity in the law,” Harris said. “I don’t see this nonsense about, well, “We can’t provide services once they’re deceased.”

The OIG should be looking into cases of neglect and abuse of a disabled person, especially when a death follows an allegation, Harris said. The agency has a responsibility to investigate, Harris said, and to turn over cases where neglect or abuse is suspected of being involved to law enforcement.

“We need to find out how this is being allowed to happen,” Harris said. “We need to find out if it’s a failure of individuals, we need to figure out if it’s a failure of the system. Or, if it’s a failure of how a law or rule is drafted, whichever one of those it is or all three of them, we have to fix it.”

State Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon, said the OIG’s main purpose is to investigate abuse and neglect of the disabled.

“That someone dies is a lame reason not to follow through. They have always been tasked with this,” Kay said. “If we don’t have the ability to pursue causes of death in these cases to their logical end, then we should take it out (of the law). But it seems it was put there for good reason.”

* Meanwhile, the DHS Inspector General is expected to issue some sort of statement today. I’ll have it for you if it ever materializes. But I want to go back to a passage that was in the story we looked at yesterday

Top state officials declined to talk about how the agency operates. OIG Director William M. Davis, a retired Illinois State Police regional commander, initially agreed to an interview, but [DHS spokeswoman Januari Smith-Trader] later said that neither Davis nor his boss, Department of Human Services Secretary Michelle R. B. Saddler, were available.

In subsequent emails, Smith-Trader accused a reporter of possibly breaking state and federal privacy laws by being in possession of private case summaries not open to the public. [Emphasis added.]

It seems to me that DHS was trying to kill a hugely unflattering story by using an empty threat of prosecution against two of this state’s best investigative reporters. Rather than rectify their incredibly stupid behavior, DHS lashed out at the people who were trying to expose this despicable policy to the public. It was a clear act of desperation on the part of DHS, and they need to be called out on it.

The governor also needs to be dragged into this mess. He needs to be pressed on it until he agrees to push DHS into compliance with the law. Some firings wouldn’t be a bad idea, either.

And, frankly, the entire Inspector General concept needs to be revisited by the General Assembly. You’ve got some IG’s making sure people don’t eat sandwiches at their desks and others refusing to investigate deaths.

Enough, already.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


21 Comments
  1. - OneMan - Friday, Jun 29, 12 @ 11:01 am:

    Perhaps Quinn has been to busy trying to avoid a Congressman from Peoria to comment?


  2. - OneMan - Friday, Jun 29, 12 @ 11:04 am:

    State Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon, said the OIG’s main purpose is to investigate abuse and neglect of the disabled.

    “That someone dies is a lame reason not to follow through. They have always been tasked with this,” Kay said. “If we don’t have the ability to pursue causes of death in these cases to their logical end, then we should take it out (of the law). But it seems it was put there for good reason.”

    Good but this would have been better

    “That someone dies is a lame the stupidest excuse ever developed by the human mind and I for one think we are all dumber for having heard it as a reason not to follow through.


  3. - thechampaignlife - Friday, Jun 29, 12 @ 11:06 am:

    Pardon my ignorance and perhaps this was discussed in yesterday’s comments but why is the OIG performing these investigations in the first place? Isn’t abuse another word for aggravated assault? Shouldn’t local law enforcement or, in the case of a death, the coroner be performing these investigations? I mean, if I drag an able bodied person across a floor giving them scrapes and bruises, I’d surely be prosecuted for assault. Why is it any different for a disabled person? Sure, they may not be able to report it themselves or testify themselves but the person that does end up reporting it (a family member, nurse, etc) and the cops’ investigation should lead to prosecution just the same. Am I missing something?


  4. - OneMan - Friday, Jun 29, 12 @ 11:17 am:

    thechampaignlife I don’t think anyone is really expecting the OIG to do a criminal investigation, but it seems that stopping all action because of death seems more than a bit daft.

    For example it would appear using their logic if lets say a care provider was accused of abusing a client and that client soon dies due issues not related to the abuse that the abuse investigation would just end. I would like to think the entity responsible for investigating the abuse would not just stop.

    It would seem that any entity charged with investigating abuse (as it appears these guys are) should not stop because the victim died.

    That is just asinine.


  5. - Michelle Flaherty - Friday, Jun 29, 12 @ 11:17 am:

    What if you die eating a sandwich at your desk without your supervisor’s consent?


  6. - langhorne - Friday, Jun 29, 12 @ 11:19 am:

    totally outrageous. indefensible. stupid.

    everyone up the chain of command needs to be held publicly accountable–including quinn. starting now. throw simon into the mix too, she doesnt have much to do and this is in her backyard.

    rich, you have your next column if you havent covered this there already.


  7. - amalia - Friday, Jun 29, 12 @ 11:20 am:

    @thechampaignlife + 1

    while I do think there is some investigative capacity of the OIG that would take a hit at the administrators, I would think a call to the police etc. would be most appropriate for the immediacy of the death. could be a bad employee, as in a criminal, and I’d want the police to investigate that.


  8. - Commonsense in Illinois - Friday, Jun 29, 12 @ 11:36 am:

    Memo to: Michelle Saddler…it’s not the event that gets you, it’s the COVER UP!


  9. - Sunshine - Friday, Jun 29, 12 @ 11:37 am:

    Perhaps we have seen “the height of incompetence” achieved? I for one am for firing all of those idiots!!


  10. - Arthur Andersen - Friday, Jun 29, 12 @ 11:43 am:

    About what I would expect from Ms. Januari. She was interviewed for a position at my agency. After an underwhelming performance, we indicated that we were probably going to keep interviewing. Within hours, the threatening calls from Emil Jones on her behalf started.


  11. - wordslinger - Friday, Jun 29, 12 @ 11:45 am:

    Surely there must be some Mushrooms with time on their hands who could call some hearings and compel some testimony. Exercise some oversight while you’re waiting to be told how to vote. It’s an important part of the job.


  12. - Wensicia - Friday, Jun 29, 12 @ 11:46 am:

    “What if you die eating a sandwich at your desk without your supervisor’s consent?”

    Your death does not excuse or prevent immediate disciplinary action which may be imposed on your heirs.


  13. - Crime Fighter (fka Honestly) - Friday, Jun 29, 12 @ 11:59 am:

    Rich: Thanks for staying on top of this. This is just but one example where the level of dysfunction in this administration has jeopardized peoples’ health and safety.

    @ Michelle Flaherty =What if you die eating a sandwich at your desk without your supervisor’s consent?= Awesome hypothetical!

    Maybe Director Saddler, who had overwhelming legislative support, could assign Deputy Carol Kraus to handle the inspectors - she has experience.


  14. - Duck Duck Goose - Friday, Jun 29, 12 @ 12:12 pm:

    While it certainly doesn’t excuse any of the actions by DHS or the IG, I think that there is a valid question as to if, how, and why reporters are able to get reports that contain personal and intimately private information about people.


  15. - Secret Square - Friday, Jun 29, 12 @ 12:17 pm:

    “Shouldn’t local law enforcement or, in the case of a death, the coroner be performing these investigations?”

    Yes, but I would suspect that an agency investigation, since it doesn’t involve imposing criminal penalties (merely referring cases to law enforcement for further action), requires a less strict standard of proof than a criminal investigation.

    For example, say a mentally and physically disabled adult accuses their caregiver of hitting them (physical assault) or fondling them (sexual abuse). Which is easier and quicker to accomplish: getting the caregiver fired via an agency investigation which declares the abuse allegations “founded”, or getting the caregiver arrested, tried and jailed for assault or criminal sexual abuse? Hopefully, BOTH will be done, of course; but chances are the victim will have an easier time proving his/her case to the agency than in a courtroom.


  16. - Just a Citizen - Friday, Jun 29, 12 @ 12:19 pm:

    Thanks for keeping the spotlight on this issue beyond the normal 24 hour news cycle. This behavior by DHS and/or the IG needs to be investigated.


  17. - Mouthy - Friday, Jun 29, 12 @ 12:35 pm:

    A few years back, on the introduction of the first newly appointed IG in our office, I asked him a couple of questions. I first asked if it was true he was appointed by the boss for 4 years, any reports of wrongdoing would be reported to the boss, we would never know what the investigation revealed nor what action, if any, was taken, didn’t have any set hours, made 106K a year, and didn’t have to answer to anyone. He said yes.

    I then knew that the position was “worthless” to all except the IG and the boss. That’s the legislature’s idea of reform. Geez.


  18. - Sam - Friday, Jun 29, 12 @ 1:17 pm:

    Hmmmm…,.is program that cares for these disabled adults the same one that was subject to the controversy a few years ago about how the home care workers were being organized after an executive order?

    http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2009-09-03/news/0909021191_1_caregivers-organized-labor-union-dues

    In, any case, I think something similar will be happening to those MFTD kids next year. While the state is planning to kick some of them out of their homes, 75% of those that remain are projected to be cared for by unlicensed home care personal assistants like those who “cared” for these adults, even though they are much more fragile medically, instead of the nurses who currently care for them.

    I wonder if we’ll be reading similar stories about these kids next year…


  19. - What The - Friday, Jun 29, 12 @ 1:35 pm:

    Representative Greg Harris is also charged with oversight? Some of the spotlight needs to shine on the General Assembly and the Committees charged with oversight.


  20. - Newsclown - Friday, Jun 29, 12 @ 1:55 pm:

    The Inspector’s logic reminds me of something said by a criminal defense attorney, regarding hit-and-runs. Based on the rules of the game, he said, you get a much lower sentence for backing up and finishing a guy off, than for trying to save him or letting him live with injuries. I think the IG hired some people who work on that kind of logic.


  21. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Friday, Jun 29, 12 @ 3:35 pm:

    @DuckDuckGoose -

    I agree with you in part. However, I can’t imagine an interpretation of privacy laws that would find a reporter in violation for accepting confidential information. The person who delivered it might have broken the law, but the First Amendment offers protection.

    Threatening reporters is never an advisable p.r. strategy.


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