Michael Madigan calls for audit of state's workers' comp program

News-DemocratFebruary 26, 2011 

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan has introduced a bi-partisan resolution calling for an audit of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation program “as it applies to state employees.”

The resolution, H.R. 131, was filed Thursday and is co-sponsored by state Reps. Tom Holbrook, D-Belleville; Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon; and Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley.

According to the official synopsis of the resolution, it seeks an audit that would include “the number of claims filed by state workers during the last four years, a review of the settlement contract process, an analysis of any fraud identification and control policies and procedures, an analysis of arbitrator caseloads over the four-year period, and a review of conflict of interest policies applicable to arbitrators and commissioners.”

A News-Democrat investigation has shown potential abuse of the system by employees in the state prison system and by workers’ compensation arbitrators themselves.

The newspaper’s investigation found that the state paid nearly $10 million in workers’ compensation awards to 389 employees at the Menard Correctional Center in Chester, including at least 230 guards who claimed they suffered from repetitive trauma due to locking and unlocking heavy cell doors. Eight of the state’s 32 arbitrators also have filed for or received workers’ comp awards.

Two downstate arbitrators have been placed on paid leave amid several investigations under way into the workers’ comp system, including one by the governor’s office.

John Dibble, of Freeburg, and Jennifer Teague, of Shiloh, are among the eight arbitrators who have received workers’ comp settlements or have claims pending.

Madigan, D-Chicago, could not be reached for comment.

“I’m pleased to work with Speaker Madigan in sponsoring legislation to audit the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission,” Kay said. “The legislature is now serious about auditing the (commission), and obtaining the support from Speaker Madigan is a big step in the right direction.

“Bipartisan support is necessary to move this legislation forward, and I’m optimistic an audit will be conducted quickly and thoroughly,” Kay said.

Kay already had filed similar resolutions, H.R. 52 and H.R. 88. Holbrook and state Rep. Dan Beiser, D-Alton, were among co-sponsors of H.R. 52.

Contact reporter Beth Hundsdorfer at bhundsdorfer@bnd.com or 239-2570. Contact reporter George Pawlaczyk at gpawlaczyk@bnd.com or 239-2625.

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