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Inept oppo dump

Monday, Jan 31, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From the end of a press conference last week…

Amy Jacobson: Governor, I wanted to ask you about Jennifer Thornley. Did you or did someone else direct CMS to put her, she’s your former campaign aide, on state disability payroll after she was fired for theft?

Gov. Pritzker: No.

State disability payroll? What the heck is that? I asked the governor’s office what that was about and they had no idea.

* It became slightly more clear when ILGOP Chair Don Tracy had an op-ed published in Real Clear Politics

The more we learn about the Jenny Thornley affair, the more it appears that senior members of the Pritzker administration, including potentially the governor and his wife, may have facilitated a fraud on the state by a now-indicted former campaign aide to enrich her and then obstructed efforts to bring her to justice.

This is a tangled web, so stay with me as I set forth a timeline of events and characters, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Tangled is a word.

* I’m not gonna go through the whole Thornley thing again today. But here’s the heart of the Tracy story

However, after Thornley was fired, someone with clout in the Pritzker administration somehow granted her disability payments reserved for people that are actually state employees. These payments (amounting to some $71,000) went on for more than a year, ending days before she was indicted for theft and fraud. These extensive payments were for “injuries'’ sustained from an “assault” that Egan determined had not occurred.

I asked a GOP spokesperson over the weekend what the heck disability payments they were talking about. Workers’ compensation was the reply.

So, the Republicans are saying she apparently got workers’ comp for an alleged injury she sustained on a job she no longer had and it turned out she apparently wasn’t even injured. But look at how they phrased it: “Someone with clout in the Pritzker administration somehow granted her disability payments.”

Huh?

* Back to Tracy’s op-ed

Who effectuated Thornley’s enrollment in the disability program over the objections of the merit board — and on whose orders did that person or persons act?

Don Tracy has been a business owner in Illinois for a very long time. He surely knows what workers’ comp is and how workers - even former workers - can receive compensation over the objections of their employer. He also certainly knows that some workers have committed fraud in order to obtain WC benefits.

Now, if there were attempts by the administration to sway the Workers Compensation Commission or the appeals process or whatever, then it’s a story. But what they are peddling here so far is a bunch of inept, dressed-up oppo.

…Adding… From comments…

Very weird attack and roll-out. I almost wonder if someone influential has been obsessing on this story and Tracy stuck an op-ed in a friendly DC outlet no one really reads just to say it’s out there. Can’t imagine this string-and-corkboard stuff is in anyone’s top 5 negative messages this year.

I got the very same feeling as I was trying to obtain answers over the weekend.

…Adding… This passage in the Tracy op-ed might explain how this dressed-up oppo became a thing

The former executive director of the Illinois State Police Merit Board, Jack Garcia, discovered evidence that one of the employees under his direction, Jenny Thornley, was stealing money from the people of the state

Garcia is a well-known, skilled investigator who previously supervised the divisions of internal investigations and forensic services, before becoming the first deputy director of the Illinois State Police.

Jack Garcia is a member of Richard Irvin’s “Law Enforcement Advisory Council.”

* Also, if Pritzker did try to help her, he sure is not acting that way. From early December

The former Illinois State Police Merit Board official at the center of a politically-fraught case that began when she was accused of falsifying overtime reports is under renewed scrutiny after collecting more than $71,000 in workers’ compensation and disability benefits tied to her unsubstantiated allegations of sexual assault.

Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration confirmed it is working with Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office to investigate benefits claims made by Jenny Thornley, who was fired last year from her $86,400-per-year job as financial officer for the merit board.

…Adding… CMS…

The Illinois Department of Central Management Services (CMS) takes seriously its statutory responsibility to administer the Workers’ Compensation Program for State agencies, boards, and commissions. CMS is working with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office to further investigate the merits of Ms. Thornley’s claim.

The Governor’s Office has not had any involvement with this claim.

On Background:
• Ms. Thornley filed a Sexual Harassment claim in January 2020
• She contacted TriStar, the State’s third party claims administrator, to inform them the listed employer was the Governor’s Office. This action was intended to prevent the Executive Director of the State Police Merit Board from discovering the claim was against him.
• The only record CMS has of a conversation with the Governor’s Office on this case was the confirmation that Ms. Thornley was not their employee, and that CMS should proceed as it normally would.
• In February 2020, an incident report was signed by Ms. Thornley and presented to TriStar.
• The Executive Director and Ms. Thornley were both placed on administrative leave pending an independent investigation conducted by McGuireWoods.
• Illinois Workers Compensation paid Ms. Thornley 66.6% of her salary and the State Employee Retirement System paid 8.3%. Temporary Total Disability benefits were paid from July 21, 2020 to August 31, 2021.
• CMS is working with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, which is an initial step prior to presenting a fraud case to the Illinois Department of Insurance.
• Illinois Workers Comp Act

    o An employee’s employment status is independent of the status of a workers’ compensation claim
    o An employee can be terminated, laid-off, etc. from their employment while they have a pending workers’ compensation claim as long as the change in employment status is not related to retaliation
    o If the State accepted workers compensation claim and remain restricted off of work by the treating physician, claimant will continue to received Temporary Total Disability benefits under the act even if fired for cause for an unrelated incident because you are restricted from the job market based on your work related injuries

An ILGOP spokesperson claimed today that “CMS enrolled her when there was no process.” That’s odd, considering there’s an actual case file.

…Adding… From Cathy Kwiatkowski at CMS…

Rich,

Regarding your inquiry, CMS conducted an independent and unbiased investigation to make a determination regarding the claim. Temporary Disability Payments (TTD) were approved while the investigation was conducted, as failure to do so could result in potential penalties assessed by the Workers’ Compensation Commission.

       

34 Comments
  1. - Arsenal - Monday, Jan 31, 22 @ 11:48 am:

    It may not be inept- theoretically, all they have to do is say words like “clout” enough times.

    But I kinda have my doubts that the voters are really going to care too much that…I mean, I don’t even know. That a staffer at an obscure agency wasn’t fired and indicted fast enough?


  2. - Arsenal - Monday, Jan 31, 22 @ 11:49 am:

    My point is, tho, that insinuations need not be backed by too many facts to be politically effective.


  3. - Demoralized - Monday, Jan 31, 22 @ 11:50 am:

    There are all kinds of people on Workers Comp that are no longer employed by the state. It doesn’t end just because you no longer work there. It ends when the case plays itself out.


  4. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jan 31, 22 @ 11:52 am:

    === insinuations need not be backed by too many facts to be politically effective===

    Yeah, well, they gotta get it out there to be effective and having Amy ask a botched question ain’t the way to do it.

    There’s a huge difference between writing (or submitting somebody else’s work is my guess) an op-ed that almost nobody will read and actually doing the work to make it stick.


  5. - Norseman - Monday, Jan 31, 22 @ 11:53 am:

    If it comes from today’s GOP, the rule is distrust and ignore until verified by multiple independent sources.


  6. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Jan 31, 22 @ 11:54 am:

    Dunno how much legs this has, the more oxygen it gets the less of a story it becomes.

    It’s half baked, purposely.

    The ineptitude of how some agencies are seemingly going about things might be more of a story, but it’s about “people close to…” whatever.


  7. - Downstate - Monday, Jan 31, 22 @ 11:56 am:

    Work Comp. payments are not something that are simply applied for and granted. The relevant employer is contacted by the state to see if they wish to challenge the filing.

    At a minimum, either the Thornley filing wasn’t challenged by her former employer, or the work comp authorities allowed the compensation to be paid in spite of a challenge, and some pretty interesting evidence.


  8. - vern - Monday, Jan 31, 22 @ 11:56 am:

    Very weird attack and roll-out. I almost wonder if someone influential has been obsessing on this story and Tracy stuck an op-ed in a friendly DC outlet no one really reads just to say it’s out there. Can’t imagine this string-and-corkboard stuff is in anyone’s top 5 negative messages this year.


  9. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jan 31, 22 @ 11:57 am:

    ===I almost wonder if someone influential has been obsessing on this story===

    I got the very same feeling.


  10. - Arsenal - Monday, Jan 31, 22 @ 12:01 pm:

    ==Yeah, well, they gotta get it out there to be effective and having Amy ask a botched question ain’t the way to do it.==

    Yeah, if you’re hoping Amy Jacobson can carry the ball for you, you should redraw the play.

    But campaigns are long. Maybe they’ll figure out a way to tell this story that works.


  11. - Big Dipper - Monday, Jan 31, 22 @ 12:04 pm:

    I’m not sure that someone who got caught making illegal campaign contributions under his wife’s name should be accusing others of corruption. But this is today’s GOP.


  12. - Anchors Away - Monday, Jan 31, 22 @ 12:06 pm:

    Adding to the ineptness here…why in the world would you pick Don Tracy to put his name to this? Someone who had to step down from the gaming board for wrongdoing. You couldn’t find anyone else to sign this op-Ed?


  13. - Arsenal - Monday, Jan 31, 22 @ 12:17 pm:

    ==Work Comp. payments are not something that are simply applied for and granted.==

    They kinda can be. I’ve seen a lot of employers just start paying the TTD while the rest of the claim is worked out, or arbitrators encouraging the employers to do so. It’s designed to be a system that is pretty kind to employees.

    (I’m assuming that we’re talking about TTD benefits because PPD can’t really be “Stopped” like this story says.)


  14. - Arsenal - Monday, Jan 31, 22 @ 12:19 pm:

    ==Very weird attack and roll-out.==

    The timing is also weird. The Trib story Tracy references is almost two months old.


  15. - Candy Dogood - Monday, Jan 31, 22 @ 12:21 pm:

    This affirms my suspicion that the GOP is planning on spending the next 10 months lying to and gaslighting voters.


  16. - Three Dimensional Checkers - Monday, Jan 31, 22 @ 12:29 pm:

    The State of Illinois paid me in college to help a blind graduate student with his research. I guess I’ve been on the state disability payroll too.


  17. - Almost the Weekend - Monday, Jan 31, 22 @ 12:30 pm:

    I read this on the website zero hedge last evening. It’s for a contrarian view of the market, but it’s a right-wing whack job sight for anything political. This story will spread like wildfire on these sites and Facebook bubbles.


  18. - 4 percent - Monday, Jan 31, 22 @ 12:39 pm:

    Did the State of Illinois contest the WC benefits? If not, why not? If so, the information and case are heard at the Work Comp Commission.


  19. - New Day - Monday, Jan 31, 22 @ 12:44 pm:

    If this is the dreck they’re peddling, it’s a great statement about how clean this administration is. Talk about weak sauce. And once again proving that Amy Jacobsen is a total hack.


  20. - ANNON'IN - Monday, Jan 31, 22 @ 1:04 pm:

    Surprised to see Don in the slime this deep…but now we know what ‘Riffle and RichieRich mean by all in. Remember this same crew got the Confessed Congressman’s gag order lifted some could slime Kilbride


  21. - Big Dipper - Monday, Jan 31, 22 @ 1:05 pm:

    Let’s say an employer aggressively fought workers’ comp benefits for someone who claimed sexual harassment and while an investigation of those claims remained pending. Wouldn’t some then claim it was retaliation? Seems like you could put a negative spin on any employer response if that’s your agenda.


  22. - Anyone Remember - Monday, Jan 31, 22 @ 1:10 pm:

    Remember hearing Ms. Thornley on Sam Madonia when she was running for local office (Convention Center), talking about her serious health issues. Are those involved in this case?


  23. - Pundent - Monday, Jan 31, 22 @ 1:28 pm:

    When you purposely recast workers’ compensation as “state disability payroll” you’ve lost all credibility with anyone who knows how these things work. And there’s any number of reasons why a claim may be accepted or denied, and they don’t necessarily rise to the level of fraud.


  24. - Back to the Future - Monday, Jan 31, 22 @ 1:29 pm:

    Frankly don’t get the knock on the First Lady.
    Reading the original Trib story, Mrs. Pritzker responded to this lady that she was not aware of the issues that Ms.Thornley raised, commended “best I not get involved”, felt Ms. Thornley followed the proper procedure by contacting administration officials and “will leave it to them”.
    The Trib story left me with the impression that the First Lady was polite and acted in an appropriate manner.
    IMHO Mr. Tracy, if you read the Trib story, was way off base and should apologize.


  25. - Hahaha - Monday, Jan 31, 22 @ 1:39 pm:

    If the ILGOP has the goods on this (not sure they do), then the hit is pretty simple: The Pritzker administration aided a Pritzker ally/friend in defrauding the people of Illinois. Not that complicated.


  26. - DownSouth - Monday, Jan 31, 22 @ 1:41 pm:

    Well none of that served to improve my current headache. Inept, convoluted, not quite factual I could go on, but commenters have already beat me to anything worthwhile. Deep sigh.


  27. - Pundent - Monday, Jan 31, 22 @ 1:52 pm:

    =then the hit is pretty simple=

    Well then why not refer to this as workers’ compensation fraud aided by Pritzker? That would be clear and unambiguous. There’s a whole lot that is supposed to be inferred here and the distortions of Tracy and Jacobson lead me to believe there’s little if anything that would suggest that Pritzker was involved or that this is anything more than a workers’ comp claim which may or may not be disputed. Certainly the ILGOP and their enablers can do better than this. It comes across more as “I’m not saying, I’m just saying.” But the journalistic bar for Amy Jacobson is so low that you can’t even trip on it.


  28. - Rabid - Monday, Jan 31, 22 @ 1:59 pm:

    Some more of that GOP thinking outside the box


  29. - Ducky LaMoore - Monday, Jan 31, 22 @ 2:02 pm:

    CMS is actually simplifying and not complicating our understanding of this issue. How strange….


  30. - Arsenal - Monday, Jan 31, 22 @ 2:26 pm:

    ==CMS is actually simplifying and not complicating our understanding of this issue. How strange…. ==

    The surest sign that something is not right here. /s

    What this all looks like to me is that a woman defrauded the state and when she knew she was about to be caught threw out a sexual harassment claim to try and skate. As that’s obviously a delicate issue, the state moved pretty deliberately in untangling the mess. But here we are, she’s fired and under indictment, and absent some evidence that someone in the Governor’s orbit did intervene on her behalf (right now, the evidence is that they refused to) I’m not sure what the upshot is supposed to be.

    …and I suspect Tracy doesn’t really, either.


  31. - Homebody - Monday, Jan 31, 22 @ 2:34 pm:

    Is this really all the ILGOP has these days?


  32. - IT Guy - Monday, Jan 31, 22 @ 6:35 pm:

    It appears the WCC claim is still active:

    https://webapps.illinois.gov/IWCC/CaseDocket/?caseId=20&caseType=WC&caseNumber=025256


  33. - IT Guy - Monday, Jan 31, 22 @ 6:40 pm:

    I may be wrong. The status seems to be incorrect.


  34. - George - Tuesday, Feb 1, 22 @ 8:21 am:

    Cms is unable to make an independent investigation of itself because it is run by mafia.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


* Today's number: 19
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