Attorneys for Veterans Assistance Commission director Brad Lavite have filed an appeal in his suit against Madison County, but both sides say they believe they are close to resolving the conflict.
Lavite is a military veteran who suffered a mental breakdown earlier this year, which his doctors attributed to combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder. Since that time, county officials have not permitted him onto county property, including his office in the county Administration Building, citing safety concerns.
Last month, a lawsuit filed by Lavite and the Veterans Assistance Commission was dealt a serious blow when Madison County Circuit Judge Steve Stobbs dismissed all three counts, stating that access to the county offices was subject to the discretion of county officials.
Attorney Thomas Burkart filed notice of appeal last week, but said that there had been promising discussions between the county and VAC leaders. “The (notice) is to preserve Brad’s right to appeal while waiting to see just what the county proposes,” Burkart said.
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Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan confirmed that the two sides have met and agreed on a plan of action, but said he could not divulge specifics of that plan.
A way has been identified to bring him back. Nobody was out there trying to harm Brad Lavite; all we wanted to do was safeguard our employees and residents.
Alan Dunstan, Madison County Board chairman
“A way has been identified to bring him back,” Dunstan said. “Nobody was out there trying to harm Brad Lavite; all we wanted to do was safeguard our employees and residents.”
Dunstan spoke highly of Lavite as an employee. “I wish Mr. Lavite hadn’t had to go through everything he did,” Dunstan said. “We are trying to work with the (VAC), along with the doctors, to get everyone on the same page.”
Burkart maintains that the dismissal of the lawsuit was in error.
“A rather obvious truth that exposes the error of Judge Stobbs’ decision is that every other combat veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder is permitted to come and go at will to the Veterans Assistance Commission office,” Burkart said. “Highly decorated combat veteran Bradley Lavite, who also suffers from PTSD, remains barred from county property despite his doctor’s release to return to work without restrictions.”
Dunstan said that Lavite has never lost his job and continues to get paid while working off-site. He said if communication had been maintained, it might never have been a controversy or in the courts.
“But that’s in the past, what we’ve all agreed to is to move forward,” Dunstan said. “We do want to see Brad come back within those safeguards... He’s been a good employee. I have respect for him, and for the duty he did for his country.”
No specific timetable has been set yet for when Lavite might be able to return to his office, Dunstan said. Burkart said they are hopeful it will be accomplished within a couple of weeks.
Meanwhile, Dunstan said he believes the other issue of paying for Burkart’s legal services will be resolved. Part of the lawsuit included the VAC’s contention that the county should pay Burkart’s fees, because the commission hired Burkart to represent the commission, not Lavite personally.
Dunstan said while the issue will go to the County Board’s finance committee, he is confident Burkart will be compensated within the VAC’s budget. “The VAC will probably have to come to the finance committee and ask for those bills to be paid,” he said. “We want to make sure they’re reasonable, and I’ve been told they’re not astronomical.”
On March 5, police responded to Lavite’s house for a domestic call, and Lavite kicked out the window of a police car while being transported to a hospital. He was charged with felony disorderly conduct, which was later amended to a Class C misdemeanor.
In June, judgment was withheld pending court supervision for 90 days, at which time the record would be expunged. Lavite also was required to pay $1,600 restitution to the Wood River Police Department for the damage to the patrol car.