Mitch Weisz, a lawyer and former university history professor who took over in 2010 as head of the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission only to encounter a scandal involving controversial claims by prison guards, has been replaced.
Michael P. Latz, a Cook County private attorney and member of the commission, was appointed commission chairman by Gov. Pat Quinn to replace Weisz, whose three-year term expires Friday.
"Mitch Weisz served for three years and his term expires Friday. We thank him for his service," stated Brooke Anderson, a spokeswoman for Quinn.
She said the workers' compensation controversy had nothing to do with Weisz not being renamed to the post.
In December 2010 when the Belleville News-Democrat first published stories concerning claims by Menard Correctional Center guards that turning keys and operating locking mechanisms led to sizable tax-free settlements, Weisz led the public call for an investigation.
On Dec. 29, after the BND reported that repetitive trauma claims by hundreds of Menard guards in just three years totaled more than $10 million paid out or pending, Weisz called for a criminal investigation by the Illinois Department of Insurance. That investigation was turned over to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District based in Fairview Heights. A spokesman there could not be reached for comment.
"The newspaper brought this to our attention and we're intending to follow up on this ... I felt that it needed to be investigated," Weisz said at the time.
A few weeks later, however, and after further public comments by Weisz and cooperation through his office to obtain public records, he was silenced. He declined to comment when contacted on Monday.
Central Management Services was designated as the official agency to deal with press inquiries, and Weisz refused further comment. Cooperation by his agency ended even though it had previously provided database public information to the newspaper without the necessity of waiting for a Freedom of Information request to be processed.
The news articles eventually led to the removal of eight workers' compensation arbitrators, including several who received settlements paid for by taxpayers for their own claimed injuries. It also led to reform in the law including capping awards for repetitive trauma injuries.
On Friday, the Illinois Supreme Court confirmed a two-year law license suspension for former arbitrator Jennifer Carril, formerly known as Jennifer Teague. She was cited for improperly contacting lawyers involved in a case and trying to keep a sensitive injury compensation hearing involving former Illinois State Police Trooper Matt Mitchell from the public. Mitchell pleaded guilty to reckless homicide in the deaths of two Collinsville sisters who died when Mitchell's squad car crossed an Interstate 64 median and hit their car head on.
Contact reporter George Pawlaczyk at email@example.com and 618-239-2625.