Chicago Tribune Editorial: Chicago workers' comp: $100 million a year, but no oversight

Alderman Edward Burke Chicago 14 Th Ward.jpg

Editorials reflect the opinion of the Editorial Board, as determined by the members of the board, the editorial page editor and the publisher.
It might be tempting to brush off a lawsuit filed recently against Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Ald. Ed Burke, 14th, as politically motivated.

Two longtime critics of City Hall accuse Emanuel and Burke of violating Illinois law and the state and U.S. constitutions. The alleged infraction? Allowing Burke, through the City Council Finance Committee he chairs, to administer the city’s workers’ compensation program. The suit argues that the program, which costs taxpayers at least $100 million per year, according to a 2016 inspector general report, should be run by a City Hall agency, human resources professionals or the Law Department.

The suit says the current arrangement — which is spelled out in the Chicago Municipal Code — is unconstitutional because it assigns executive functions to the legislative branch. We’ll leave that question to the courts. There’s zero doubt, however, that vesting complete control of the workers’ comp fund in a single committee chair, shielded from oversight, is a terrible idea.

Burke’s role as the gatekeeper of workers’ comp benefits for the entire city of Chicago invites cynicism, and rightfully so. The lawsuit alleges that Burke, who has chaired the finance committee for 33 of the last 35 years, leverages his position to load up his staff with patronage workers. The role also allows him to dole out favors as he determines the outcomes of hundreds of cases of city workers who claim they were injured on the job.

The lawsuit says jobs and disability benefits are awarded to precinct captains and others who help secure votes for Burke and candidates he supports. It says Emanuel has relinquished control of the workers’ comp fund to Burke because Burke helps round up City Council votes for measures pushed by the mayor. We’d like to see data to back up those claims, but that’s the point. Everything ends at Burke.

We have long argued, along with a few members of the City Council, that city Inspector General Joe Ferguson should have the authority to audit the program. Someone other than Burke and his staff should be reviewing cases and claims that involve public workers and taxpayer money.

But Burke, assisted by weak-kneed aldermen, has managed to wall off his committee from the purview of Ferguson’s office. The City Council in 2016 helped him by gutting an ordinance that would have given Ferguson the authority to examine Burke’s books. This was after many aldermen claimed to be in favor of it a year earlier, during election season. Then they flipped.

It was outrageous then and it’s outrageous now.

By comparison, Cook County’s workers’ comp committee, chaired by County Board member Tim Schneider, R-Bartlett, reviews and signs off on decisions that are made by experts in the county’s risk management department and the state’s attorney’s office. Schneider doesn’t have a staff. He isn’t negotiating compensation decisions. And the committee and its cases are open to the scrutiny of the county inspector general and the public. Cases that require a settlement eventually come to the full County Board for approval.

At the state level, it’s similar. Lawmakers who head up House and Senate committees on public health or transportation or education don’t actually administer programs in those subject areas. The agency heads and staff who work for the state of Illinois do.

The federal lawsuit filed by Jay Stone and Patrick McDonough — two activists with a long history of fighting City Hall — asks a judge to order the city to assign the workers’ comp program to the executive branch and to grant the inspector general permission to conduct an audit and claims review and to release the results to the public. For now, City Hall isn’t commenting.

We’re happy the plaintiffs are calling attention to an issue Chicago’s elected officials have worked very hard to duck.

Emanuel and every candidate on the ballot in 2019 should be on the hot seat regarding this question: Why should an elected alderman continue to act as a program administrator, in the dark, on an issue as expensive and important as workers’ comp? And why should he (or anyone) operate outside the watchful eye of an inspector general?

It’s a blot on Chicago government that is long overdue for a fix. Who will have the guts to do it?

A frail Alderman Edward Burke in horrible accident July 2018

Alderman Edward Burke Final Final.jpg
Last week in July, Alderman Edward Burke, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Chicago Committee on Finance was again in another mishap that caused massive internal bleeding and bruising that can cause the end of his storied political career. Chairman Edward M. Burke has been looking very frail for quite some time, has hidden his frailties with fancy suits and his iron grip of the Chicago media. Chairman Edward Burke’s staff at the 14th Ward office told me flowers can be sent to his 14th ward office at any time. They also told me he is missing from work again today.
According to sources at the Mayor’s Rahm Emanuel’s office, Chairman Edward Burke will keep a very low profile and hope he is reelected and Mayor Rahm Emanuel agreed to place Edward’s brother Illinois State Representative Daniel J. Burke after the Aldermanic election. Many 14th ward Hispanics are upset because Edward is not sharing the power and the tens of millions of dollars of contributions from Chicago contractors and those wanting favors from Alderman Burke. Edward Burke has controlled the St. Pat’s day parade, billions in no-bid contracts, and controls all the Chicago judges that look the other way when Edward is doling out campaign contributions to Chicago Alderman.
This is a great time for Hispanics to take control of the 14th ward that looks like a Mexican barrio. The hard-working Hispanic population in the 14th ward have been hoodwinked long enough. Please sent get well wishes and flowers to:
Chairman Edward Burke
2650 W. 51st Street
Chicago, IL 60632
Email: [email protected]

Alderman Burke and Rahm Emanuel in the Crosshairs. Feds Investigate Corruption

Mayor Rahm Emanuel Lied in Federal Court
Emanuel Restarts Corrupt Political Practices that Previously Led to 60 Convictions

Mayor Rahm Emanuel told a whopper of a lie on June 16, 2014 in U.S. Magistrate Judge Sidney Schenkier’s standing room only courtroom. Dozens of Chicago style political discrimination victims, journalists, and other interested parties all came together for the historic removal of the federal court monitor. Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration rigged interviews for job applicants who secretly campaigned for Daley backed candidates for 16 years. Consequently, in 2004 Judge Wayne Andersen appointed Noelle Brennan as a federal court monitor to oversee the City of Chicago’s personnel decisions. About 60 city employees either plead guilty or were convicted for their role in Chicago’s job and election rigging scheme. It took 10 years, a new mayor, the retirement of Judge Andersen, and the City of Chicago spending over $200 million in civil rights settlements, legal fees and human resource changes before Judge Schenkier agreed to end the federal court’s oversight.
Mayor Emanuel and the city agreed to follow a Hiring Plan in return for the removal of the federal court monitor. Some of the Hiring Plan’s anti-corruption rules and procedures were making the Human Resource Department the “gatekeeper” of all city jobs instead of the mayor’s office, giving the Inspector General Office (IGO) hiring oversight and investigative authority. The IGO’s webpage states that it took over the federal court monitor’s duties on the day Emanuel testified in federal court.
Judge Schenkier said, the city has “… a set of rules, procedures and internal policing requirements to keep politics out of hiring.” The IGO’s investigative authority is the “internal policing” that Judge Schenkier referenced. Mayor Emanuel also acknowledged that the IGO must continue its work in order to keep politics out of city hiring. Emanuel testified, “We must remain vigilant, working cooperatively with Inspector General Ferguson and his hiring oversight team to help keep us on this path from which we must never stray again.”
On Feb. 10, 2016 the City Council voted to restrict the IGO’s investigative authority. Thus, 18 months after Mayor Emanuel pledged to work cooperatively with the IGO, Emanuel was complicit in taking away the IGO’s investigation powers that he agreed to follow in federal court. Mayor Emanuel published nine press releases for ordinances that were approved on the day the City Council voted to reduce the IGO’s authority, but none of Emanuel’s nine press releases addresses the hot-button issue of the IGO’s reduced authority that the mayor said was essential to stopping corruption when he spoke in federal court.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel lied in federal court when he promised to stay “vigilant” and “cooperate” with the IGO to keep Chicago moving forward. Emanuel sticking his head in the sand while his political allies passed the water-downed IGO ordinance is obstructionism, not the cooperation that Emanuel publicly pledged. The IGO has the expertise, experience, and resources to root out corruption. When Mayor Emanuel gave his blessings to handcuff the IGO, he was anything but vigilant as he had promised to maintain. If Mayor Emanuel truly meant what he said in federal court, he would have vetoed the IGO ordinance without a moment’s hesitation. Instead of Emanuel being true to his words in federal court, Emanuel acted like a coward by saying he merely went along with the aldermen.
The next section discusses how corruption and another potential civil rights lawsuit have resulted from Emanuel’s failure to veto the ordinance that restricts the IGO’s investigative authority.
Mayor Emanuel’s Lies are Preventing IGO Investigation
On February 23, 2016 I filed a complaint with the IGO because Alderman Burke is managing the Chicago’s Workers Compensation Division through his aldermanic Committee on Finance (COF). The workers’ compensation program belongs in the executive branch of government as it is everywhere else in this country, not in Burke’s legislative committee. The next day Chicago Sun Times reporter Fran Spielman published a story in which attorney Michael Shakman said he agreed with me. Mr. Shakman said he made a mistake by allowing patronage employees to run Chicago’s Worker’s Compensation Division. Four days after my IGO complaint, the Sun Times published an editorial that called for moving Chicago’s workers comp program from Ald. Burke’s committee to a city department.
The Richard M. Daley administration committed political discrimination because it awarded government jobs and promotions in a quid pro quo exchange for campaign work. Candidates, such as Mayor Richard M. Daley and Rahm Emanuel, did not pay for their campaign workers. The city compensated Daley and Emanuel’s congressional campaign workers in the form of new city employment and promotions that came from rigged job interviews. Instead of rewarding campaign workers with jobs and promotions, Alderman Burke is rewarding disability pay and benefits to injured city workers who are affiliated with his and the mayor’s political machine. Mayor Emanuel’s failure to veto the restrictive IG ordinance is creating a liability that could cost millions of dollars in another civil rights class action lawsuit.
The Hiring Plan listed the job titles and job classifications for employees who work in Ald. Burke’s COF. Furthermore, Burke failed to seek the Department of Human Resources (DHR) commissioner’s permission to change 22 COF employees’ job titles as the Hiring Plan required. Ald. Burke also failed to notify the IGO of changes to his employees’ job titles as he was required. When I became aware that 22 of Alderman Burke’s COF employees had one job title for the COF and one job title for the DHR , I filed a second IGO complaint (See table Below).
Committee on Finance Employees who have a Human Resources Job Title Different from their COF Job Titles

NAME DHR Job Title COF JobTitle
Maria Estrada — Legislative Aide — Adjuster
Janet Galvin Legislative Aide Director of Workers Comp
Mao Hong Legislative Aide Systems Administrator
Linda Jagminas Legislative Aide Director of Claims and Rebates
Mary Kate Manion Legislative Aide Secretary of Committee on Finance
Alicia Martinez Clerk of the City Council Adjuster
William Marutzky Legislative Aide Adjuster
Kathleen McNamara Legislative Aide SC Adjuster
Arturo Medina Legislative Aide Adjuster
Andrea Miceli Legislative Aide Secretary of Committee on Finance
Laura Montoya Manager of Information Systems Director of Policy
Michelle Murphy Director of Workers Compensation Assistant Chief Administration Officer
Stephen Niketopoulos Legislative Aide SC Adjuster
Ellen O’Gara Legislative Aide Adjuster
Megan Panik Legislative Aide Adjuster
Kyra Robinson Legislative Aide Adjuster
Moni Rohde Legislative Aide Systems Administrator
Monica Somerville Legislative Research Analyst Executive Director of Claims
Lisa Soto Legislative Aide Adjuster
Marita Thomas Legislative Aide Adjuster
Sherry Williams Legislative Aide SC Adjuster
Ethel Nancy Legislative Aide Adjuster

Ald. Ed Burke also created eight (8) new job classifications for his COF employees (See table below). The job classifications Burke created were not in the budget, nor were these jobs listed in the Hiring Plan. Burke creating job classifications on his own accord violates the Hiring Plan that Mayor Emanuel and the city agreed to follow in federal court. Unfortunately, Mayor Emanuel’s failure to veto the IGO ordinance prevents the IGO from investigating 22 of Burke’s employees using of two job titles and Burke’s creation of eight new job classifications in violation of the Hiring Plan.

Committee on Finance Job Classifications Created by Chairman Alderman Edward Burke

Ald. Burke ordering his employees to use two separate job titles is prima facia evidence of wrongdoing. Burke is purposely being deceitful and duplicitous because he wants to retain as many of his COF jobs for his own personal and political gain. On the one hand, the COF’s proper use of his employees job titles with the DHR keeps Ald. Burke and the COF in good stead with the DHR. On the other hand, COF employee’s use of unofficial job titles in the performance of their work make it appear that members of the Ald Burke’s staff are something other than the patronage employees that they really are. The COF’s abuse of job titles makes it seem COF employees are making independent and fair decisions based on fact, but the sad truth is the COF often decides Workers Comp cases based on political affiliation to Ald. Burke. We will never know the extent of Burke and the COF’s wrongdoing until Mayor Emanuel and the aldermen reinstate the IGO’s investigative power or the Justice Department investigates Burke’s committee for a third time.
Endnote
Please note that I only said Mayor Rahm Emanuel lied in federal court. Judge Schenkier did not have any of the witnesses who testified on June 16, 2014 swear to tell the truth, including Emanuel, myself, and everybody else who spoke at the hearing. Because he did not swear to tell the truth before he addressed the court, I deem Mayor Emanuel a liar, but not a perjurer.

Reginald Williams vs. City of Chicago vs. Alderman Burke Video


On September 27, 2017, Reginald williams, a City of Chicago injured worker, exposes Alderman Burke, Anne M. Burke, Monica Sommerville, fraud, bogus lawyers, doctors, delays, scams. Please file complaints on all these bums to the ARDC. Workers need their workers compensation benefits when they get hurt. George Tamvakis, Neal Strom, bad lawyers.

Reginald Williams Sr. Blows whistle on CDOT, Alderman Burke, Monica Somerville and the IWCC

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.

Chicago Alderman Burke’s Vocamotive Charge Chicago massive Rates

We all know about Vocamotive Vocational Rehabilitation Training. The City of Chicago has hired them to provide ways to reduce the millions Chicago pays in Workers Compensation benefits. Alderman Burke has hired a bunch of political hacks to work on his Committee on Finance. Dog walkers, dog groomers, hair dressers. Alderman Burke even hired a male stripper. Many folks that work for Alderman Burke have no schooling in Insurance Claims, workers’ compensation, investigations.

When that happens, Chicago Taxpayers pay millions more to hire professionals and consulting companies to pick up the slack. Claims drag on, City of Chicago Lawyers handling claims quit, and claims get bogged down. This costs Chicago taxpayers millions more. In case you read Chicago Newspapers, you will find Chicago investigative journalism has completely gone down the toilet. Chicago Journalist only print what Rahm tells them to. How sad.

Last year Vocamotive provided support services to the City of Chicago Committee on Finance to the tune of $500,000.00 dollars. That would have provided many more patronage workers for Alderman Burke, but no political donations. Vocamotive provides legal assistance to the Committee on Finance because their legislative aides are incapable of doing the job. In fact, Monica Somerville and Luana Olivas-Montoya should be fired if they cannot train the staff to do a complete professional job for the broke taxpayers. I would not expect much from Monica Somerville, she was fired as a Law Department Attorney after suing her boss for sexual harassment. She skipped the “Do not hire List”. Alderman Burke likes what he sees in her.

Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Vocational Training people get paid about $15.50 per hour. Vocamotive charges an astounding $85.00 through $105.00 per hour. Vocamotive also charges Chicago taxpayers hundreds of dollars for loaning cheap computers, and hundreds more for basic Microsoft classes. Chicago pays massive rates for travel time, talk on phone time, and wait time. The billing is better than lawyer rates.
Please look at the attached rates. Click on READ MORE What a mark-up. And you wonder why Alderman Burke is a millionaire and Chicago is Bankrupt. Where is Rahm Emanuel? Where is Inspector General Joe Ferguson?

Vocamotive City of Chicago Rates.pdf

Dominick Tomasello RIP January 8 2017 Feds please step in.

We at Chicago Clout meet many folks that in in trouble. I received Dominic’s name and number from a guy I knew for years that was screwed around by the city. Since I know many people, politician, and insiders, people felt I could help Dominic. Dominic had a brutal divorce. He seemed obsessive compulsive towards his daughter and ex-wife. For some reason, he felt he could fix whatever was wrong and try again. I felt Dominic was completely unrealistic. Dominic felt people were interfering with his former relationship; he did everything he could to expose alleged wrong doing.
The story he told me was far too complex. Dominic also had a hard time keeping the same story and crafted events to fit the audience. I also could sit in amazement that a man could keep such a clean and wonderful home. Dominic also made strong accusations against the mob, his friends, his lawyers. He was also quick to give away his money if you said you could help him.
Dominic was hit on the head at work. This was the final straw. The Committee on Finance screwed him around, withheld his checks, made him go back to work sick. The usual. His story was so complex, I felt only Michael Volpe had the skills to handle his situation. To all the people that took his money, withheld his money, and denied care, I hope Hell is real. To the Cook County Court System that kept two ankle bracelets on him, like he was an animal, I hope you are proud of yourself. I also hope Alderman Burke rots in hell for the way the city treats an injured worker. Two ankle monitors and they sat on him being dead for two days? Rest in peace.

The Defender speaks on Alderman Burke and the Committee on Finance

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.