I am a two-time victim of fraud committed by a Chicago City Council Finance Committee employee named Monica Somerville. Ms. Somerville's job title is a "legislative aide" though she has fraudulently written in her letters to me that she is the "Director of the Workers' Compensation Division."
Monica Somerville sent me letters on October 19, 2015 and January 7, 2016 to inform me that my benefits were being stopped for "Not participating in vocational rehabilitation" and "Non-compliant." Somerville typed the word "Director" next to her name in both letters (see PDF of my October 19, 2015 and January 7, 2016 letters). Underneath her name and title of "Director," Somerville typed, "Workers' Compensation Division."
Somerville is not the Director of the Workers' Compensation Division. According to Human Resources, Robert Serafin is the workers' comp Director and Somerville is a legislative aide (see Human Resources work history of Somerville and Serafin PDF). Somerville committed fraud by falsely claiming she was a director when she has no legal authority or legal power to do so. Furthermore, Somerville deceptively listed herself as the "Director of Workers' Compensation Division" in the professional website called "Linkedin" (see Linkedin PDF).
Fraud is defined as, "a person or thing intended to deceive others, typically by unjustifiably claiming or being credited with accomplishments or qualities." Commit fraud is exactly what Somerville did. She purposely deceived me by falsely claiming she is the workers' comp director when her job title is legislative aide. Somerville expressed she had more power and authority from her phony "Director" job title than she actually had. Somerville's overstatement of her position and authority with the job title of "Director" is very relevant because in both her letters to me she stopped my duty disability pay and payment of my medical expenses.
City employee Reginald Williams Sr. also received a letter in which Somerville committed fraud with her false claim that she is the director (See Williams Sr. Article). In Somerville's letter she denied Williams Sr. surgery and said he can return to unrestricted duty though he is taking the strongest painkiller available. Williams Sr. and his personal physician both maintain surgery is necessary and only hope of Williams Sr.'s recovery. Since Somerville is deceiving injured city employees with her false job title of "Director," you have to wonder what other things is she lying about or doing wrong.
The four exhibits and supportive evidence mentioned in this fraud complaint against Monica Somerville are as follows:
1. A copy of my complaint
2. Monica Somerville's letters dated October 19, 2015 and January 7, 2016
3. Legislative Aide Monica Somerville and Workers Comp Director Robert Serafin's work history from the Human Resources Department
4. Monica Somerville's false Linkedin claims
5. Article featuring Reginald Williams Sr. and self-titled workers' comp "Director" Monica Somerville's bewildering response
Injured City Worker
Worker's Comp is another Hired Truck and Clout List Scandal Waiting to Happen
I predict current workers' comp Director Monica Somerville will join the ranks of city managers Angelo Torres and Robert Sorich. Torres managed the infamous Hired Truck program. The city paid $60 million a year to contractors for trucks that mainly sat idle on side streets and parking lots. To secure their lucrative trucking contracts, city contractors used bribes, kickbacks, and political donations, including contributions to Mayor Rahm Emanuel's political committee that Emanuel set up when he ran for congress. Sorich maintained the "clout list" that FBI agents found on his computer when they raided his city hall office. Scorch kept the names of people that the city promoted or hired in exchange for their political work, a practice that the Shakman Decrees expressly prohibited. Not surprisingly, the names of workers comp Director Monica Somerville and three of her relatives appear on Sorich's clout list (see Note 1).
As with Torres and Sorich, Monica Somerville's political organization and political sponsors secured her workers' comp job. As with Torres and Sorich, workers' comp Director Somerville must obey orders from her political clout bosses regardless of whether her orders are moral or immoral or legal or illegal; otherwise, she will be out of her seventh public sector job.
Somerville's job as workers' comp director is her fourth city job. Somerville worked in the law department as an attorney and assistant corporation council from January 1991 until she resigned in September 1997. Somerville returned to the law department as a chief assistant corporation council in June 2000. Somerville's return to city employment at double the salary is significant because it occurred after Sorich put her name on his clout list. Seventeen months later, the city fired Somerville for disciplinary reasons in November 2001. Somerville did not leave her city job quietly. She filed a sexual harassment and racial discrimination suit against her boss Melvin Brooks and the City of Chicago. The judge ruled the city fired Somerville for "poor performance." The judge specifically noted Somerville made mistakes that led to a $50 million and $3 million verdict against the city. The judge said Somerville provided no evidence that she was sexually harassed or racially discriminated against.
Somerville Should Have Been on the City's Do Not Hire List
The assistant commissioner for the human resources department maintains a "do not hire list" of employees whom the city will not rehire because of the actions that led to their termination. The do not hire list is divided into finite and infinite classifications. The city may rehire former employees after one year if city workers' terminations are listed as "finite." The city will never rehire former city employees whose terminations are classified as "infinite."
At the very least Monica Somerville's disciplinary termination would have put her on the do not hire finite list had there been one in 2001. Somerville falsely accusing her supervisor and city of sexual harassment and racial discrimination after she was fired probably would have earned her a do not hire infinite termination. It's one thing to get fired for poor performance and disciplinary reasons, but making false accusations after termination against a supervisor and the city is far more serious. I pity Somerville's boss who had to defend himself against her awful allegations.
Alderman Burke hired Somerville for political reasons, and he continues to employ her for political reasons. As with Somerville's current workers' comp position, her previous employment was also a Shakman exempt job. Prior to joining Alderman Ed Burke's finance committee, Somerville worked nine years at the Illinois Department of Employment Services (IDES). She went from a $28.36 hourly hearing referee in 2003 to earning $7,917 a month for working as a public service administrator starting in 2009. Somerville has an eight month employment history gap from when she left IDES on Sept. 1, 2012 until she started working for Burke's finance committee on May 16, 2013. Somerville's pay dropped from $95,000 a year at IDES to the $75,000 a year that she is currently earning as a finance committee employee.
Alderman Ed Burke is solely responsible for hiring Monica Somerville. For the 31 years that Burke has served as finance committee chairman, he has handpicked all of his workers' comp employees. Somerville did not make the city's do not hire list because there was no such list when she was fired, but wouldn't her termination for poor job performance, false allegations against her supervisor, and unsuccessful lawsuit against the city give Burke pause to hire her? Has Somerville accomplished anything remarkable that shows she is a far better employee today then the day the city fired her?
Burke has some explaining to do. Why did Burke hire Somerville after she was fired from the law department for poor performance? Why did Burke hire Somerville after she made false sexual harassment and racial discrimination claims in a lawsuit that she lost? Why did Burke hire Somerville who has an extensive political pedigree for a job that requires independence and impartiality?
Burke's hiring of Somerville is a symptom of a much bigger problem, namely workers' comp is under Burke's finance committee's control when it should be part of the executive branch. During Burke's 31 year reign as finance chairman, I estimate that he has submitted $2 billion to $3 billion in workers' compensation vouchers without a financial audit or oversight of his expenditures. Indeed aldermen have passed Burke's workers' comp budget for 31 years, but once the city council appropriated money to fund Burke's committee, there has been no review to make sure Burke has properly spent the $2 to $3 billion of workers' comp money.
Three 1913 municipal code ordinances give Burke the unchecked power to hire workers' comp employees, sign vouchers for both duty disability pay and medical expenses without proper financial controls over his spending or oversight of his employees. Workers' compensation employees like Somerville maintain power and control over city employees' livelihood and their health since they must give their prior approval for medical procedures such as surgery. If you are a city employee or someone you care about is a city employee, you'll want to know the answer to this question: How many other Monica Somervilles did Alderman Ed Burke hire to administer Chicago's workers' comp program?
1.To view Monica Somerville and her relatives names on the clout list, click the following document. cloutlist2006(2)
City Worker Denied Surgery to Relieve Pain
By Ken Hare
Chicago Defender Staff Writer
On January 7, 2013, city worker Reginald Williams Sr., who has worked with the Department of Transportation for over 20 years was injured on the job.
He was a passenger in an 18-wheel city truck when the driver miscalculated the height of a viaduct and ran into the overpass. The impact injured everyone riding in the cab and an ambulance was dispatched.
The next day, Williams was instructed to go to Mercy Works for Occupational Medicine and see the doctors that are part of the city's workers' compensation network.
Shortly after his accident, Williams applied for workmen's compensation and was immediately awarded monthly benefits that started the same month of the accident, January 2013 and lasted until December 2014.
In a letter dated January 14, 2015, Monica Somerville, Director of the Workers' Compensation Division, stated that Williams was to complete the paper work to be reinstated to "full duty" work in an "unrestricted capacity." The letter was based on a Dr. Levin's Independent Medical Examiner's (IME) report that was written on December 3, 2014.
Dr. Levin, in addition to that report, also wrote a 53-page report addressed to a Patricia O'Connor chronicling Williams' medical history throughout the life of his claim. The report is a compilation of all the visits that Williams made to the doctor's office regarding his conditions while he received benefits, benefits that lasted for twenty-three months.
"I contacted my attorney and asked how could they terminate my benefits. He said it was based on the MRI report and the doctor's opinion that I was able to go back to work full time," Williams stated. "I told my attorney that someone was lying and he said we have to wait to see the report."
Williams ended up firing his first attorney and hiring another after weeks went by with no progress on his case. Subsequently, he hired another attorney who also didn't make any substantial progress and he too was fired after several months.
After obtaining a copy of the report, according to Williams, he came to the conclusion that Dr. Levin had incorrect information about his shoulder that wasn't injured in the accident and somehow this information was used to justify terminating his case.
Attorney Mark Weissburg, who isn't affiliated with the case, but specializes in Social Security and Workers' Compensation is all too familiar with the decision to terminate clients.
"The City would have to explain its decision making process. Some employers fire injured workers as a way of scaring the remaining employees so they don't report work injuries," Weissburg said. "Other times an employer fails to follow the law and acts in ways that are contrary to the word and intent of the Workers' Compensation Act."
Throughout the 53 page report, it's indisputably noted that Williams continues to experience severe back pain, and is commented on by several of the doctors that Dr. Levin uses in his final report.
"I continue to be in constant pain while taking Norco and Dr. Levin knows that I am," Williams said. "I am sad that my request for surgery has been denied even though I did everything the city told my doctors to do. Just when I thought the city was about to approve my surgery, Dr. Levin said I didn't need it. And my benefits were terminated."
Attorney Weissburg said, "I've seen employers make decisions that not only hurt the injured worker, but are also not in the employer's own best interests. When there are reasonable questions regarding the facts of a work injury, those should be investigated, but when it is clear that a worker was injured at work, the appropriate benefits should be paid in a timely manner."
The question some ask is how the city of Chicago and one of its affiliated doctors says it is okay for a city employee, who is taking one of the most powerful pain killers known to man, to return to work in "full duty" in an "unrestricted capacity."
The warning label for Norco states: "This medication may impair your thinking or reactions. Avoid driving or operating machinery until you know how Norco will affect you. Dizziness or severe drowsiness can cause falls or other accidents."
The Chicago Defender attempted to contact Dr. Levin, Monica Somerville from Workers' Compensation and Mr. Williams' attorney, George Argionis, all declined to comment on this story.
Sun 2/28/2016 6:58 PM
WRITTEN BY SUN-TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD POSTED: 02/28/2016, 02:07PM
For more than a century in Chicago, a mere City Council committee -- now tightly controlled by a single powerful alderman -- has called the shots on all worker compensation claims, in recent years shelling out what experts say is a "staggering" amount of money.
Feel free to scream about that the next time Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Council decide to jack up your property taxes. Demand that they take Ald. Ed Burke down a peg first and bring the Chicago Bureau of Workmen's Compensation into the 21st century.
Across the country, big cities have placed the responsibility for overseeing millions of dollars in payments to municipal workers injured or killed on the job under the control of a city department.
The New York City Law Department handles the Big Apple's worker compensation claims. In Los Angeles, the city Personnel Department administers them.
But in Chicago? Here, the Bureau of Workmen's Compensation, bizarrely, is under the purview of the City Council Committee on Finance. Under the city's municipal code, it's been that way since at least 1913.
That means the city's $100 million-a-year workers' comp fiefdom is headed by Burke, alderman of the 14th Ward and longtime Finance Committee chairman.
The municipal code also gives Burke alone the power to hire workmen's comp employees. Audits of the bureau's claim decisions are not required.
Inspector General Joseph Ferguson has no auditing oversight, thanks to a recent City Council "IG-Light" compromise that walled off workmen's comp and other programs controlled by aldermen from IG audits.
Eugene Keefe of the Keefe, Campbell, Biery & Associates workers' compensation defense law firm once called the city's $115 million payout in 2011 workmen's comp claims "staggering."
"No municipality in the United States pays that much or anything close to that much for workers' compensation benefits,'' Keefe wrote back in 2012. "Finance Chairman Ed Burke has been running that money-hemorrhaging program with an iron fist and as secretly as it can be run for decades."
We've seen little evidence that much has changed since - except that the city's finances have worsened to crisis levels.
At a time when Chicago faces budget woes up the wazoo, the organizational structure of the Bureau of Workmen's Compensation is a blazing example of bad government. It is rife with the potential for cronyism, waste and inefficiency just when Chicago has no pennies to spare.
Two aldermen are trying to bring this more than 100-year-old anomaly into the modern era.
A resolution by Aldermen John Arena (45th) and Scott Waguespack (32nd) calls for hearings into the city's workmen's comp practices by the City Council's Committee on Budget and Government Operations.
The aldermanic pair want to hear exactly what procedures the Finance Committee uses to investigate and process claims and to check for fraud. They want to explore if it makes sense to move all these functions into the city's executive branch -- and if so, where.
They have suggested the city Law Department as one destination, although that city bastion could be busy at the moment battling nagging questions about police shootings.
Finance Committee officials insist workmen's comp auditing is done. For at least the last two years, Aon Risk Solutions has conducted a "Workers' Compensation Reserve Analysis and Forecast." Those numbers are eventually plugged into the city's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.
The problem is, Waguespack said, the number crunchers "are given dollar amounts and they add them up and see if 2 plus 2 is 4. But they don't look at how you got 2 plus 2."
Pulling back the curtain on the operations of the city's workmen's comp program with a public hearing would be a welcomed move.
And graduating from such a hearing to a successful City Council ordinance that would amend the Municipal Code and put workmen's comp in the executive branch would be even better. Doing so would make workmen's comp subject to IG audits that aldermen recently prohibited with their gutted IG ordinance.
But this is Chicago.
Chances are, the Arena-Waguespack resolution will never make it to a hearing. The parliamentary maneuvering has already begun, aldermen say, with moves afoot to transfer the resolution to Burke's Finance Committee. Or, it could sit forever in the Rules Committee, never to see the light of day.
And Chicago could remain stuck in the 1900s when it comes to workmen's comp -- but with 21st-century-sized workmen's comp bills.