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Pritzker explains why he hired Chapa LaVia to direct IDVA

Friday, Apr 30, 2021

* Gov. JB Pritzker was asked today why he picked then-Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia to be his Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Director. The IG report on the 36 LaSalle Veterans’ Home COVID-19 deaths claimed she “abdicated” her responsibilities to her chief of staff. Pritzker’s response

You have to remember that she led the investigation that happened with the incident that happened at the Quincy Veterans’ Home a few years ago. And so she seemed like an ideal person to be able to root out the problems in our veterans’ homes. But I have to admit that if I knew then what I know now I would not have hired her.

There’s a lot more to running a crucial state agency than rooting out problems and Pritzker, who has extensive management experience himself, should’ve known better.

* What he needed to do in the wake of Quincy was hire someone with strong experience in health care management, which is what he finally did this year. From a press release

On April 1, 2021, Governor JB Pritzker appointed Terry Prince, a 31-year Navy veteran with deep experience in military and veterans’ medical care, to serve as Acting IDVA Director. Prior to this role, Acting Director Prince was Superintendent of the Ohio Veterans Homes and Command Master Chief at Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The new Acting Director is focused on increased visibility and communication for department leadership, improved organizational structure and staff training, and hiring for several new and vacant roles for the agency.

“There is nothing more critical to our department’s mission than ensuring the heroes in our homes are safe and receive the quality care they deserve,” said Acting IDVA Director Terry Prince. “As the acting director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs and as a Navy Veteran of more than 30 years, my heart breaks for the families who lost loved ones to COVID-19 in our Veterans’ Homes. In my prior role, I led the Ohio Veterans’ Homes and saw firsthand the enormous challenges this pandemic unleashed on the state facilities that care for our heroes. Lessons learned there and here in Illinois from this unprecedented crisis are already being implemented as we work to make IDVA the department that our veterans deserve. Let me be clear, we will seize any and every opportunity to better ensure the safety of veterans in our care and every single corrective action outlined in this report will be implemented with urgency.”

People like Prince don’t grow on trees, but Pritzker was so far out of the ballpark with Chapa LaVia that his decision to bring her on certainly contributed to the chaos at the LaSalle home.

* Sun-Times

“We need to train as if it’s always happening,” said Prince, who arrived in Illinois on April 1 from his post as superintendent of the Ohio Veterans Homes, where he administered three facilities. “When there is an absence of the virus we train even harder, so that when something does come to fruition, our people know exactly what to do and how to do it.” […]

Among Prince’s other initiatives are plans to develop clear, statewide policies applicable to each home; restructuring senior leadership with chain-of-command clarity and assurances that the homes are receiving proper clinical and administrative direction; filling key positions whose vacancies have doubled work for others; and providing all employees with an email address for receiving agency-wide notices and communicating their concerns.

Infection control will be a priority with the hiring of a director and creation infection-control committees at each home following standardized guidelines, Prince said.

“It’s always been important but it did come to light, over the course of this crisis, the significant amount of work that’s involved in being an infection control specialist,” Prince said. “Prior to COVID-19 you would deal with things like pneumonia, flu, MRSA … they were often a case-by-case basis. When COVID hit, you’re not only monitoring residents you’re monitoring every staff member who works there.”

As subscribers know, I spent some time talking with Prince yesterday and his experience and knowledge is darned impressive.

Also, still unknown is what the deputy governor in charge of that agency was up to during the outbreak.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

35 Comments
  1. - JS Mill - Friday, Apr 30, 21 @ 12:55 pm:

    =* What he needed to do in the wake of Quincy was hire someone with strong experience in health care management=

    Amen. It is just confounding that he hired someone who had zero experience or related experience for such an important job that requires real knowledge and experience.

    I believe in Pritzker, but this mistake hurt people and worse.

    She was a real estate agent. I just cannot get that out of my head.


  2. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Apr 30, 21 @ 12:59 pm:

    ===You have to remember that she led the investigation that happened with the incident that happened at the Quincy Veterans’ Home a few years ago. And so she seemed like an ideal person to be able to root out the problems in our veterans’ homes. But I have to admit that if I knew then what I know now I would not have hired her.===

    First and last;

    Pritzker owned it, and for that, I’m grateful. He said it.

    The logic is… “not great”

    What… a good police detective or private eye can find all kinds of problems in any business if they snoop about.

    It doesn’t ever mean those who can “see” problems, root it out… can actually “fix” those problems.

    Governors own. Pritzker owned Chapa LaVia. He said so.


  3. - Rasselas - Friday, Apr 30, 21 @ 1:04 pm:

    He sounds perfect. And he understands what needs to be done.

    However, the overwhelming number of nursing home deaths from COVID occurred in non-VA, non-state-owned nursing homes. It would be terrific if his list of what needs to be done (and should have already been ongoing in all nursing homes) became the template for regulation of all nursing homes.

    Of course, that would require legislators to offend the deep pocket donors of the industry, so not gonna happen.


  4. - Pizza Man - Friday, Apr 30, 21 @ 1:04 pm:

    Shouldn’t she also provide an explanation and offer an apology in addition to the guv (regardless if she’s not in the administration or not)?


  5. - Pundent - Friday, Apr 30, 21 @ 1:09 pm:

    A political appointee with no experience running a complex administrative agency, what could go wrong? Simply because Chapa LaVia was able to examine Rauner’s efforts in running the IDVA does not translate to being able to run the department. Pritzker learned a hard lesson here. Good to see him own it and take the necessary steps to avoid it again by hiring Prince.


  6. - Joe Schmoe - Friday, Apr 30, 21 @ 1:09 pm:

    Which fine, highly overpaid deputy governor was responsible for oversight of IDVA?


  7. - SaulGoodman - Friday, Apr 30, 21 @ 1:23 pm:

    “You have to remember that she led the investigation that happened with the incident that happened at the Quincy Veterans’ Home a few years ago.”

    Led the investigation? Really? Didn’t she just chair a couple of committee hearings?


  8. - Kyle Hillman - Friday, Apr 30, 21 @ 1:24 pm:

    He sounds like an improvement for sure. Now do DCFS next.


  9. - Cool Papa Bell - Friday, Apr 30, 21 @ 1:28 pm:

    =Also, still unknown is what the deputy governor in charge of that agency was up to during the outbreak.=

    Really not sure what any of the deputy governor’s have been doing the past 18 months. Seems like it would have been a good time for them to shine. At least publicly none of them distinguished themselves the least little bit.


  10. - Donnie Elgin - Friday, Apr 30, 21 @ 1:31 pm:

    First and foremost thoughts to the families of those who died. Now to the political angle. JB is spinning this to script using a politically expedient answer. He did not apologize and his hiring of Prince after the crisis become front-page news only points out that he was slow in responding. His judgement is very much in question when facing a crisis. The Veterans home, and the IDES fraud issues are very problematic.


  11. - ;) - Friday, Apr 30, 21 @ 1:40 pm:

    Just wondering, which deputy Governor does this fall under?


  12. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Apr 30, 21 @ 1:47 pm:

    === deputy Governor===

    Instead of frothing at the mouth about the deputy governors…

    None of y’all find it at all strange that a political appointee, a former legislator, didn’t herself think reaching out to the governor, one on one, was needed?

    Don’t give me the “baloney” about “chain of command”… here’s why. I’ll go slow;

    Political appointees brought on to run agencies that can’t find it in their way to directly tell their patron (the governor) about major problems, that’s on the appointed AND the governor.

    “But, but… the chain of… “

    No. Stop.

    The politics of the appointment and this catastrophe dictated a director being responsible to their patron.


  13. - Responsa - Friday, Apr 30, 21 @ 1:55 pm:

    The Gov’s given reason for hiring Chapa LaVia sounds weak and reaching. But that was only the beginning of the tragedy. He must still address his reason for keeping her on for sooo long, even after the problems at LaSalle became well known out in the public. A bad hire is one thing. That happens sometimes, unfortunately. But not timely removing the bad hire in order to right the ship and to keep her from causing further damage is an even worse look for JB.


  14. - Anon1 - Friday, Apr 30, 21 @ 1:55 pm:

    Chapa’s forte was talking a big talk and glad handing. Anyone in the Capitol building could have told Pritzker she’s not cut out for hard stuff, like work. Appointing someone like her to a position where vulnerable people are involved was a mistake from the get go.


  15. - NIU Grad - Friday, Apr 30, 21 @ 1:55 pm:

    My guess is that her appointment was aimed more at an expedited senate approval, especially after the first appointment fell through. It’s kind of bonkers that she was approved while there are other agency heads who have been stuck with “Acting” titles since 2019…


  16. - Miso - Friday, Apr 30, 21 @ 1:58 pm:

    I’m not gonna stop.

    Quarter of the residents dead. PLENTY of blame to go around. The Dep. Gov. Can comfortably wear the jacket too. Dozens dead. She gets some blame. Thats proper and fair to assign some accountability.


  17. - Working Hands - Friday, Apr 30, 21 @ 2:00 pm:

    Honest question: The post refers to Pritzker’s extensive management experience. Did he hold management positions at Hyatt or another company he invested in? I thought his profile was more investor than operator.


  18. - Fmr Accountant - Friday, Apr 30, 21 @ 2:03 pm:

    OW,

    I agree that the problem is owned by the appointee & Guv, but on page 32 of the report we read

    ===Mr. Kolbeck stated that the Senior Homes Administrator position requires approval from the Governor’s Office, so while the IDVA conducted several rounds of interviews and selected a candidate in late 2019, Mr. Kolbeck stated the Governor’s Office did not approve that candidate.===

    I wonder which deputy Governor refused to approve filling this critical vacancy, and why?


  19. - Overland - Friday, Apr 30, 21 @ 2:21 pm:

    Deputy governors don’t run agencies day to day. Directors do. If the governor shouldn’t have appointed Chapa La Via, maybe the senate shouldn’t have confirmed her either. If a director isn’t responsible for running the daily inner-workings of an agency, then what exactly are they responsible for?


  20. - SSL - Friday, Apr 30, 21 @ 2:29 pm:

    This was a big misstep with tragic consequences.

    While Pritzker will have some good things to talk about during his reelection campaign, this isn’t one of them. This is one his opponent will talk about.


  21. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Apr 30, 21 @ 2:34 pm:

    === I wonder which deputy Governor refused to approve filling this critical vacancy, and why?===

    You’re asking the wrong question.

    Why didn’t the director, a political appointee, didn’t go to the governor with a beef that it wasn’t filled?

    Kinda goes back to Kolbeck being hung out by Chapa LaVia, and a director seemingly not engaged in the well being of these, as it turned out, victims.


  22. - Summer Breeze - Friday, Apr 30, 21 @ 2:40 pm:

    It is interesting that Linda Chapa-LaVia did nothing agree to an IG interview.
    It will be interesting to see if she submits her side of the story. That might include the roles of the Gov’s deputy governors, COS and any bureaucratic oversight and paralysis.
    Agency directors do not operate in a vacuum.


  23. - Cool Papa Bell - Friday, Apr 30, 21 @ 2:40 pm:

    Wasn’t the follow-up question - why again did it take you so long to fire her?

    All kinds of a lack of leadership here.


  24. - Sir Reel - Friday, Apr 30, 21 @ 2:43 pm:

    But the important thing here is to make sure General Assembly members can get high paying Administration jobs so their pensions will increase substantially.

    I formerly worked at a State agency that got a know nothing GA member for all of 2 weeks (yes, 2 whole weeks) and his pension more than doubled.


  25. - Cool Papa Bell - Friday, Apr 30, 21 @ 2:48 pm:

    @OW - Why didn’t she?

    It seems as if Chapa LaVia might not be personally up to the task of seeking out the Governor on this or - is there no way of getting to the Governor personally on the issue.

    Is there a firewall there that can’t be circumvented? I don’t know.


  26. - SAP - Friday, Apr 30, 21 @ 3:12 pm:

    === I wonder which deputy Governor refused to approve filling this critical vacancy, and why?===

    You’re asking the wrong question.

    Why didn’t the director, a political appointee, didn’t go to the governor with a beef that it wasn’t filled?==

    I want answers to both questions. Chapa gets most of the blame-she was supposed to be the boots on the ground, but the deputy gov sleeping on the job is a systemic problem.


  27. - Anon - Friday, Apr 30, 21 @ 3:16 pm:

    This was an identity hire from Day 1 and anyone who claims differently is either ignorant or dishonest.

    Someone with the experience and credentials of Terry Prince should have been hired from the start.


  28. - AlfondoGonz - Friday, Apr 30, 21 @ 3:26 pm:

    When I worked in Springfield, Chapa La Via was the most consistently and egregiously late Rep in the entire D caucus.

    And that’s really saying something.

    This isn’t a partisan comment, plenty of R’s were consistently and unapologetically late, too. I just didn’t have to worry about their whereabouts.


  29. - natty lite - Friday, Apr 30, 21 @ 3:28 pm:

    What exactly do the deputy governors and chief of staff do in the Pritzker administration? This was a massive senior staff failure. The governor’s senior staff weren’t doing their jobs if they didn’t know that a cabinet member wasn’t doing hers.


  30. - Buy high - Friday, Apr 30, 21 @ 3:39 pm:

    How is this any different than so many of his other appointments. His first appointment at department of insurance had no regulatory experience and no insurance experience.


  31. - Shytown - Friday, Apr 30, 21 @ 3:41 pm:

    It was no doubt the wrong move in hiring Chapa La Via, but you don’t know until someone is in the position whether or not they will succeed. But generally speaking, don’t hire former elected officials in roles where they have no other experience to offer beyond seeing in the legislature. You need folks who have leadership experience.


  32. - Hector - Friday, Apr 30, 21 @ 3:51 pm:

    There has to be a host of past and present cabinet
    officials and agency heads laughing their heads off about the “why didn’t they just go to the Governor” notion. I once had an agency director plead with me to ask the Governor (not gonna say which one) to please have the guy call him back and he was trying to tell him he needed to resign for serious health reasons. He had been reaching out for weeks. Heard similar stories about lack of access in this administration too.


  33. - Hector - Friday, Apr 30, 21 @ 3:58 pm:

    ….ask the Governor to call him back.


  34. - Pizza Man - Friday, Apr 30, 21 @ 4:15 pm:

    Back in March by IL Playbook…

    “Linda Chapa LaVia, a former state representative and director of the Illinois Department of Veteran’s Affairs, has joined 1833 Group, a Democratic consulting firm. While serving in the General Assembly, Chapa LaVia was elected assistant majority leader and chaired the Veterans Affairs and Energy committees.”

    Good luck 1833 Group…be careful with your hires.


  35. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Apr 30, 21 @ 4:29 pm:

    === There has to be a host of past and present cabinet
    officials and agency heads laughing their heads off about the “why didn’t they just go to the Governor” notion.===

    They laughing about 30+ deaths too?

    Odd sense of humor.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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