Madison - St. Clair Record

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Veteran's Commission superintendent suing to regain access to Madison County building

By The Madison County Record | Jul 28, 2015


Veteran services superintendent Bradley Lavite takes up a legal weapon to force his way into the Madison County administration building.

He seeks a writ of mandamus against county administrator Joseph Parente, who banned him from the premises after Wood River police arrested him.

Lavite blames medication for damage he inflicted on a squad car on March 5, and claims he can carry out his official duties with better medication.

(Click here to watch the full video of the encounter as recorded by the dash cam of a Wood River police car). 

His spouse and a Veterans Administration doctor support his view, but not Parente.

County counsel John Gilbert of Edwardsville moved to dismiss Lavite’s action on July 9, claiming Parente acted within his discretion.

“Mr. Parente has the duty to ensure the safety of plaintiff and all other persons, including county employees and members of the public, who visit the county administration building,” Gilbert wrote.

He filed the motion two days after moving to substitute Circuit Judge John Barberis.

In Illinois, any party can substitute a judge once without cause, if the judge has not made a substantive ruling.

Barberis would have held a hearing on July 10, but he had to send the case back to Chief Judge David Hylla.

On July 23, Hylla assigned Associate Judge Stephen Stobbs.

Wood River police put Lavite in a car on March 5, at his home, and he allegedly damaged windows and a door of the car.

Wife Sherry Lavite petitioned for an emergency order of protection on March 6.

“My daughter was screaming to the top of her lungs,” Sherry Lavite wrote in her petition.

“I ran to the kitchen and Brad’s brother said Jesus Christ is going to kill you run and hide.

“My husband was downstairs destroying the basement.

“Then the police made it and he had altercations with them.”

She wrote that they took him to jail, John Cochran Hospital, and Jefferson Barracks.

“I have never been so afraid,” she wrote. “I pray he gets help and we stay safe.”

Associate judge Duane Bailey granted the order and set a hearing in 20 days.

Five days later, Sherry moved to dismiss or drop the order.

“After completing the treatment action plan with psychiatrist and team Mr. Lavite was diagnosed and medicated accordingly,” she wrote.

“He was deemed safe to be around himself and others.

“Since returning from the War, Mr. Lavite’s meds have not diagnosed his illness correctly.”

She wrote that if there were red flags in the future, she would call an ambulance.

“He is not a violent person outside of that manic episode we experienced,” she wrote.

“Thank you for helping us in our time of need.”

On March 18, Jefferson Barracks doctor Jane Loitman signed a note in his behalf finding he could return to work on March 25 with no limitations.

On March 19, state’s attorney Thomas Gibbons charged him with damage to government property exceeding $500, a felony.

On March 20, Parente told Lavite he would not be allowed in the building.

On March 22, the veterans assistance commission authorized Lavite to execute his duties from places other than his office.

Lavite retained John Delaney of East Alton, and pleaded not guilty on March 23.

On March 26, Bailey granted Sherry’s motion to drop the protection order.

On April 10, the veterans’ assistance commission resolved to hire lawyer Thomas Burkart of Hamel to challenge Parente’s decision.

Robert Sedlacek signed the resolution as commission president, and Ronnie Hicks signed as vice president.

Gibbons meanwhile declared a conflict of interest due to Lavite’s employment by the county, and appellate prosecutor David Rands of O’Fallon took charge.

In June, Rands agreed to reduce the felony to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct, and Lavite agreed to pay restitution of $1,600 to Wood River.

Associate Judge Neil Schroeder approved the agreement on June 8.

On June 12, Burkart filed suit for Lavite against county board chairman Alan Dunston, Parente, the county board, and sheriff John Lakin.

Burkart wrote that Lavite is a highly decorated combat veteran of the U.S. Army.

He wrote that the Military Veterans Assistance Act required Lavite to maintain an office under the direction of the commission.

“Plaintiff has a clear right to access to the county administration building and defendants similarly have a clear public duty to allow plaintiff such access,” Burkart wrote.

He wrote that on June 5, Parente demanded that Lavite begin using accrued medical leave as opposed to his regular salary.

On July 1, Lavite moved for a preliminary injunction requiring the county to pay his regular salary and Burkart’s fees.

Burkart attached his bills to the motion, placing in the public record clues to a web of scandals.

Bills mentioned a federal safety complaint, a VA complaint, someone’s statements in a complaint to the county, and an investigation by Congressman Mike Bost.

One mentioned an allegation that two people fabricated a file after a third person caught them in an awkward situation in Lavite’s office.

One stated that, “County has been showing the dash cam video to board members.”

Burkart wrote that he mailed a letter to Parente, “with threat to request protective order if video is not returned to authorities.”

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