State Sen. Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon) is calling for a federal investigation into the actions of Illinois Workers Compensation Commission (IWCC) arbitrator Jennifer Teague, 37, of Shiloh.
McCarter filed a resolution in Springfield today in the wake of news reports that Teague had taken steps to conceal a public hearing involving former state trooper Matt Mitchell's work comp injury claim, which resulted from a high speed crash that claimed the lives of two teenage Collinsville sisters in 2007. Mitchell pleaded guilty to reckless homicide in the incident.
In addition to Mitchell's situation, the Belleville News-Democrat has reported that since 2008 the state has paid nearly $10 million to 389 employees of Menard Correctional Center, including more than 230 guards who claimed repetitive trauma caused by operating manual cell locking mechanisms.
A number of arbitrators, including Teague, have also made work comp claims.
The Belleville News-Democrat reported that Teague had a work comp claim pending for cubital tunnel syndrome at the time she and fellow arbitrator John Dibble were placed on paid administrative leave Feb. 15.
Dibble, of Freeburg, was awarded $48,790 earlier this year on claims he suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome, the newspaper reported.
"Recent media reports also indicate that approximately 25% of the arbitrators employed by the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission have received workers' compensation awards," McCarter's resolution states.
McCarter said that workers' compensation claims cost the state approximately $150 million annually.
The resolution calls for the U.S. Attorney and/or the FBI to investigate the arbitrators' and Menard employees' claims, as well as Teague's actions related to the Mitchell hearing.
Last week, area state representatives filed a resolution seeking a similar investigation by the state auditor general. The resolution, HR 52, is sponsored by a number of area legislators including Rep. Dwight Kay (R-Glen Carbon), Rep. Tom Holbrook (D-Belleville) and Dan Beiser (D-Alton).
"The integrity and trust relating to the daily operations of the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission is questionable," Kay said in a statement, "I want to know why and how the Commission failed so badly. I want to know the truth about the entire operation of the Workers' Compensation Commission. Most importantly, the public deserves to know the truth about the systemic failures and lax operating procedures by the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission."
Madison County connection
Madison County Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth served two terms as IWCC chairman under the Blagojevich administration, until he resigned in 2008 to run for the vacancy created by the retirement of Madison County Circuit Judge Ed Ferguson.
Ruth had appointed Teague to her position as arbitrator in 2003. Dibble also served under Ruth, who oversaw the Commission.
Arbitrators in the IWCC system are administrative law judges, hearing and deciding workers' compensation cases.
Ruth also served as a commissioner and arbitrator for IWCC. As an arbitrator, he heard more than 400 cases prior to being appointed commissioner. He heard more than 100 appeals cases as a commissioner.
Ruth has not responded to a phone call seeking comment about the circumstances facing Teague and Dibble.