EAST ST. LOUIS – Madison County veteran assistance superintendent Brad Lavite, suing county leaders for access to his office, offers chilling context for the behavior that prompted them to shut him out last year.
According to his complaint in federal court, he kicked out windows of a Wood River police car in March 2015 because he expected mistreatment where police planned to take him.
His action achieved his purpose, according to the complaint, for the police decided to send him somewhere else.
After the incident, county administrator Joseph Parente banned Lavite from his office on the first floor of the administration building.
The county’s veteran service commission stood by Lavite and retained Tom Burkart of Hamel to sue for a writ of mandamus against Parente.
Associate judge Stephen Stobbs dismissed the suit last year, but Fifth District appellate judges reversed him on Aug. 5.
They held that Parente lacked authority because the commission operates independently of the county.
On that date, in federal court, Burkart sued Parente, county board Chairman Alan Dunstan, State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons, and Sheriff John Lakin.
The complaint details Lavite’s service in Iraq, including being exposed to “multiple detonations of improvised explosive devices and engagements with enemy forces.”
It also explains that the police car outburst was preceded a year earlier by an unwelcome transport to a mental health facility.
Burkart wrote that in March 2014, a broken and infected tooth brought on an episode and his wife called for assistance.
“First responders took Lavite into protective custody and stated to his wife that they were going to transport him to the hospital for care,” Burkart wrote.
“Lavite’s wife was under the impression that he was being transported to the closest local emergency room.
“Instead, he was taken to a local mental health facility at Gateway Regional Medical Center in Granite City.
“Once at Gateway he was involuntarily admitted and his broken and infected tooth remained misdiagnosed and untreated for several days until he demanded that he be seen by a medical doctor.
“After requesting medical treatment Lavite waited almost an entire day before he was finally seen by a nurse practitioner after he lay on the hallway floor outside of his room.
“Immediately after being seen by the nurse, Lavite was provided antibiotics and pain medication.
“After receiving limited medical treatment for his tooth, Lavite expressed to his wife that it was his tooth, she demanded that he be released, so that he could seek appropriate dental treatment.
“As a result, Lavite was released and that afternoon his wife rushed him to a local oral surgeon where the broken tooth was surgically extracted.
“Upon finally being treated and released Lavite resumed his normal working duties and family life.”
Burkart wrote that on March 5, 2015, at Lavite’s home in Wood River, he and his family recognized that he was highly agitated.
They called 911 and when first responders arrived, Lavite’s family advised them that Lavite was a veteran.
Burkart wrote that the family requested an ambulance to take him to the VA medical center in St. Louis.
“The first responders advised Lavite and his family that they were not going to summon an ambulance and that they were instead going to place him in a squad car and take him to a holding cell,” he wrote.
In the cell, he wrote, Lavite continued to experience symptoms of stress syndrome.
Lavite was placed back in a patrol car for transport to the facility in Granite City that had previously misdiagnosed him and left him untreated.
Burkart wrote that first responders refused to follow the family’s request that he be transported to the VA medical center.
“Lavite screamed at the driver and eventually kicked out the rear windows of the Wood River police squad car,” he wrote.
“Eventually, after the squad car pulled to a stop, first responders conceded to Lavite and his family’s wishes and had him transported via ambulance to a closer emergency room.
“From there Lavite was transferred to the VA medical center for treatment.”
Burkart attached to the complaint a letter that VA psychiatrist Jane Loitman signed on March 18, 2015, advising that Lavite could return to work on March 23.
On March 20, Parente banned Lavite from his office on the first floor of the county administration building.
According to Burkart, Lavite continues working at other locations.
District Judge David Herndon will preside over the suit.