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Yet another workers’ comp scandal exposed by the Belleville News-Democrat

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* Back in 2007, Illinois State Trooper Matt Mitchell slammed into an oncoming car while Mitchell was driving 126 miles per hour. He pled guilty to reckless homicide and resigned, but he has since filed a workers’ compensation claim for crash-related injuries.

The Belleville News-Democrat has uncovered evidence that suggested a state workers’ compensation arbitrator worked with Mitchell’s lawyer to hold the workers’ comp hearing in secret. And an assistant attorney general was also allegedly in on the scam

A state workers’ compensation arbitrator who will decide whether former Illinois State Trooper Matt Mitchell should be compensated for his injuries wanted to keep the public hearing secret, according to e-mails between the arbitrator, Mitchell’s lawyer and an assistant attorney general, who represents taxpayers.

“We are going to do it on the sly with no press,” wrote Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission arbitrator Jennifer Teague in an e-mail to her court reporter. Thousands of Teague’s e-mails were obtained by the Belleville News-Democrat under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.

Ann Spillane, chief of staff for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, said, “It is completely unacceptable for there to be any discussion to minimize press coverage or to thwart the public’s effort to attend a public hearing.” […]

“There is nothing I can do to keep them (News-Democrat reporters) out of a public hearing, but will be more than willing to do a special setting and an unknown place and time!” Teague wrote to Mitchell’s lawyer, Kerry O’Sullivan, on Oct. 18.

Teague is one of 8 of the state’s 32 workers’ compensation arbitrators who have filed workers’ comp claims. The attorney general’s office has referred the matter regarding the assistant attorney general to its ethics officer.

* Some sample e-mails

From Teague to Smalley at 3:54 p.m. on Nov. 30:

“I need you to get some dates together for me (when) you are available in December to report the Mitchell trial in Collinsville. We are going to try and do it on the sly with no press.”

From Teague to O’Sullivan at 2:09 p.m. on Nov. 8:

“Hey, on a side note, my schedule is filling, and I’d like to get the Mitchell thing on the books as quietly as possible. Your thoughts?”

I think we’ve reached the point where somebody needs to either name a special prosecutor or invite in the FBI to look at this Workers’ Comp Commission mess.

posted by Rich Miller
Wednesday, Feb 9, 11 @ 8:02 am


  1. it would be interesting to see if timing wise this was happening before or only after blago fired comissioners and puthis own people in play.

    Comment by Ghost Wednesday, Feb 9, 11 @ 8:05 am

  2. Send Fitzgerald and the FBI and let them go. It looks like allot of people are involved. If the state handles it, it will be forgotten. We are talking Millions of dollars. If there is violations of the law and corruption, they need to go to prison.

    Comment by BOB Wednesday, Feb 9, 11 @ 8:22 am

  3. This entire Mitchell case is an unmitigated disaster, but it isn’t reflective of the system in general. This is like the Welfare Queen method of using PR to get welfare reform legislation passed. The bill that will be passed will be harmful to workers, harmful to doctors, of marginal benefit to employers, and a windfall for insurers. The insurance lobby will again prevail, by making it look that they’re saving business a boatload of money, which is a boatload of bull.

    Comment by chiatty Wednesday, Feb 9, 11 @ 8:25 am

  4. Teague became a lawyer in 1998. I don’t know how old she is, but I’d be curious to know how long she had been a lawyer before being appointed as a work comp arbitrator. And who appointed her?

    Comment by Ravenswood Right Winger Wednesday, Feb 9, 11 @ 8:28 am

  5. Great journalism by the BND.

    If the federales get involved, would it be the Central (Springfield) or Southern District (Metro East)?

    Comment by wordslinger Wednesday, Feb 9, 11 @ 8:41 am

  6. And she said it on e-mail???? I think we are talking stupid here. Not to say she shouldnt be asked to resign. But since this is probably another (very well compensated) state job for life, it’ll be up to her if she goes, probably.

    Comment by cassandra Wednesday, Feb 9, 11 @ 9:04 am

  7. Kudos to BND for staying on this like stink on….well you know. Like so many other aspects of state government, the WC has been a cash cow for those dishonest enough to take advantage. The level of “to the victor goes the spoils” shown by the Blago and now Quinn administration is an abomination. Teague needs to be suspended and fired if this is proved true. Same goes for the Asst. AG. The whole WC program has to be busted open by a special prosecutor or the feds.

    Comment by Bitterman Wednesday, Feb 9, 11 @ 9:38 am

  8. See above.

    Comment by Reform is needed. Wednesday, Feb 9, 11 @ 10:04 am

  9. I agree with you, but Teague needs to be fired first.

    On a similar note, there ought to be a law that states public officials and employees be required to pay back any salary “earned” while committing a crime.

    Former dope-pushing, now federal inmate, Gallatin County Sheriff Raymond Martin comes to mind. He collected a salary while spending months in jail.

    I know the law was changed to elected officials losing their job upon conviction and not sentencing after some Chicago city official milked the system, but it should be criminal fraud to collect a public salary while performing dishonest services as a public official.

    Comment by Downstate Illinois Wednesday, Feb 9, 11 @ 10:16 am

  10. Using the unmitigated stupidity of writing those statements in email as a benchmark, I shudder to think about how incompetant the workers’ compensation arbitrators actually are. It would probably be cheaper to skip the hearings entirely and just write the checks from the get-go.

    Comment by Anonymous Wednesday, Feb 9, 11 @ 11:00 am

  11. Teague’s 2010 salary was $111,401.68. This is what makes it hard to believe the pols when they cry poor.

    Comment by Crystal Clear Wednesday, Feb 9, 11 @ 11:44 am

  12. Another interesting piece of information: the commission no longer lists her contact information on their arbitrators list, but she is still be paid this year.

    Comment by Crystal Clear Wednesday, Feb 9, 11 @ 12:00 pm

  13. Her contact information is still on the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission website.

    Right here:

    Comment by Louis G. Atsaves Wednesday, Feb 9, 11 @ 12:07 pm

  14. The real problem here is the media. If they would just stop telling us about corruption and wrongdoing, then we wouldnt have to know it exists.

    Comment by Ghost Wednesday, Feb 9, 11 @ 12:08 pm

  15. LAG, you’re right, my bad.

    Comment by Crystal Clear Wednesday, Feb 9, 11 @ 1:12 pm

  16. The story mentions an AAG Bill Schneider. There is a lawyer named William Russell Schneider who has a business address at the Illinois State Senate Republican Staff.

    Comment by Bigtwich Wednesday, Feb 9, 11 @ 1:41 pm

  17. Chiatty,
    Are you kidding me? What has been your experience in the Work Comp system to offer such an opinion of the system.
    As a business owner and employer let me share my experience with you: I had an employee whose marital troubles were impacting his day-to-day performance. Just as we were ready to fire him, he suddenly developed a “back injury”. Under advice of counsel, we couldn’t fire him, but rather had to deal with the Work Comp. board.
    The employee, who was seeing two different Chiropractors, complained bitterly about his back.
    We went before the board, and were able to offer evidence that the employee, while complaining about his back, participated in TWO different summer golf leagues, while claiming the disability.
    Want to guess the Work Comp Board’s decision? We payed Tens of Thousands of Dollars to wash our hands of this scum and the Work Comp. board.
    My fellow employers have dozens of horror stories.
    Again, on what do you base your rosy view of the Work Comp. arbitrators. Mine is simply based on experience.

    Comment by Downstate Wednesday, Feb 9, 11 @ 2:51 pm

  18. I agree that this is one for the feds.

    Comment by dr. reason a. goodwin Wednesday, Feb 9, 11 @ 6:39 pm

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