After 21 months of lockout from the Madison County Veterans Assistance Commission office, an attorney for Superintendent Brad Lavite said his client was "very ecstatic" about having his access to the county administration building restored.
"Frankly, I've been in the office, and that office is running very well with him there now," said Lavite's attorney Tom Burkart.
Lavite returned to his office Dec. 5 after having been banned from it since March 20, 2015, in response to an incident in which he kicked out police car windows while suffering a post-traumatic stress episode. While he did not have access to the county building, the commission decided that Lavite would be able to continue working as the superintendent, just from other locations.
"One example is the monthly, quarterly, and annual meetings of the executive board of the VAC that usually are held in his office there on the first floor at the county administration building," Burkart said. "They were moved to the American Legion in Glen Carbon. And other than that, he'd be working from various VFWs with other military posts throughout the county to do his job on a daily basis and, frankly, really was spearheading a lot of work with mental health and first responders."
Burkart added that while Lavite worked away from the office, he also developed a program to help others with post-traumatic stress disorder.
"Not necessarily just veterans, but anybody that's suffering a PTSD episode," Burkart said. "And he was very successful at that. In fact, I think he saved somebody's life."
Lavite is still battling the county officials who kept him out, as a federal lawsuit – against former County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan, former county administrator Joseph Parente, Sheriff John Lakin, State's Attorney Thomas Gibbons, and Madison County – with ongoing civil litigation.
"Really, I think what they were doing by keeping him off public property was denying his constitutional rights," Burkart said.
After the incident in a Wood River squad car, Lavite had been told by a doctor at Jefferson Barracks that he could go back to his post as veterans assistance commission superintendent with no restrictions.
"I don't think they have a good reason [to keep Lavite off Madison County property] when the psychiatrist from the VA clears him to go back to work without restrictions, and that's exactly what her letter said," Burkart said. "So from the beginning, this whole thing smelled to me. And it's like we've been fighting ever since."
Burkart said the constitutional violation that he is alleging on Lavite's behalf stopped when new county board chairman Kurt Prenzler allowed Lavite back into office, but the federal lawsuit is ongoing because Lavite is seeking compensation for the time period of the lockout.
Burkart said the conflict put a lot of stress on Lavite.
"I give him great credit for surviving that without another PTSD incident," Burkart said. "Once you've had that [PTSD], you can't guarantee anything, but his ability to not have an incident during this extremely stressful time during the last year and a half is a testament of just how well he is compliant with his treatment so that he doesn't have another incident."