Still getting thousands: Workers' comp arbitrators remain on paid leave while probe goes on

News-DemocratMay 18, 2011 

Two state arbitrators continue to draw their salaries three months after being placed on leave in the wake of a federal investigation into the Illinois workers' compensation system.

The state placed Jennifer L. Teague, 38, of Shiloh, and John T. Dibble, 56, of Freeburg, who each earn $115,840 a year, on paid leave Feb. 15, the day after federal prosecutors issued subpoenas.

"Administrative leave for both individuals was extended pending further investigation," said Alka Nayyar, the Central Management Services spokesman. "Neither has requested a hearing at this time."

Neither Teague nor Dibble could be reached for comment.

Federal prosecutors from central and Southern Illinois sought email and personnel records for Teague and Dibble as part of a federal investigation into state workers' compensation.

In a series of stories, the Belleville News-Democrat reported that almost 389 employees at the Menard Correctional Center received $10 million from taxpayers for workers' compensation injuries. More than 230 claims were filed by guards for repetitive trauma damage to their wrists and elbows that was caused by locking and unlocking cell doors.

Teague was the arbitrator in a workers' comp claim by former Illinois State Trooper Matt Mitchell, who slammed into a car at 106 mph while using his on-dash computer and talking on a cellphone. Teague sent an e-mail to her court reporter telling her she was trying to hold Mitchell's hearing "On the sly with no press."

Teague also offered to set a special hearing date in a case if the attorney general's office would speed up resolution of her own repetitive trauma workers' compensation claim. A hearing on that claim is set for June 6.

Dibble, who handled most of the claims at Menard, received a $48,790 settlement for a workers' compensation claim after he said he fell walking up the steps at a hearing site in Herrin.

Other investigations into the state's workers' compensation system include:

* The Illinois Department of Insurance reviewed repetitive trauma claims filed by Menard guards and other prison personnel. That investigation is pending, according to Illinois Department of Insurance spokeswoman Anjali Julka.

* Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, asked for an audit of the workers' compensation program for state employees. A report has not yet been completed, Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said.

* Gov. Pat Quinn appointed Springfield attorney John R. Simpson to head an investigation into the Menard claims. Simpson could not be reached for comment.

Teague, who is an attorney, last week filed a petition in St. Clair County Circuit Court to change her name to her maiden name, Carril. Under the law, Teague does nothave to give a reason for the name change.

The Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission cannot confirm whether there is an investigation into Teague's actions, according to ARDC spokesman Jim Grogan. The commission only releases information regarding an investigation if it results in discipline, he said.

Dibble cannot face discipline from the ARDC because he is not an attorney, Grogan said.

Editors' note: Due to past inappropriate comments on this case, story comments have been removed.

Contact reporter Beth Hundsdorfer at bhundsdorfer@bnd.com or 239-2570.