O'FALLON — County Board candidate Dennis Renner, who installs his own political signs around the metro east, should stop accepting publicly funded disability payments and go back to his county truck driving job, his opponent in the Nov. 6 election said.
"If he can perform those functions on behalf of his campaign, he should be well enough to go back to work," said Bill Blair, a Republican and the incumbent County Board member from District 23.
Renner, a Democrat and member of the O'Fallon City Council, has filed seven workers' compensation injury claims with the state over the two decades, four of which have resulted in nearly $273,000 in settlements and paid time off. Three injury claims -- one in 2010 and two last year -- are pending against Renner's current employer, the St. Clair County Highway Department.
Renner said he has been off work for at least a year and has received regular disability payments because of injuries to his back and knees that prevent him from working as a county truck driver. He declined to state how much he receives per week. However, temporary total disability payments are usually two thirds of gross pay and are not taxed. He was last listed as making about $37,000 in his county job.
"They don't have any light-duty jobs for me over there," Renner said, adding that his physician warned him not to lift anything heavier than 35 pounds.
"The only reason this is coming out now is politics. I am not going to engage in mudslinging." Renner acknowledged he puts out his own political signs.
Blair said if Renner can drive a car and wield a sledgehammer, he can drive a truck.
"If he's not healthy enough to perform his function as a truck driver, he ought not to be driving all over town with a sledge hammer and stakes putting out his political signs," Blair said.
Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission records show that the 62-year-old Renner received a $50,000 settlement and $10,000 for paid time off in 1986, when he filed a claim, approved by a state arbitrator, in which a physician stated Renner lost 31 percent of the function of his "body as a whole," while working for a private concrete company.
Renner's next injury claim, filed in 1992, resulted in a total of $109,786 paid for by taxpayers for a settlement and paid time off for an injury sustained while he worked for the Illinois Department of Transportation.
In 2004, he filed a pair of workers' compensation injury claims filed against a private trucking firm that netted $103,152 in settlements and paid time off.
The three most recent cases filed against the country are pending.
The nearly $273,000 does not include medical fees, which are not always included in the public record.