August 18, 2018

Doctor Willie Wilson answers Chicago Tribune editorial on Stone McDonough Federal Lawsuit

Willie Wilson Final Mayor of Chicago.jpg
August 18, 2018

City of Chicago Mayoral Candidate and frontrunner for the 2019 Chicago Election came out strong for a Federal Lawsuit filed against Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Alderman Edward Burke. The Chicago Tribune completed an editorial exposing Rahm Emanuel and Alderman Burke for mismanaging 100s of millions of taxpayer dollars by Chicago Workers Compensation dictator Alderman Burke. The tribune called out mayoral candidates to address this issue.

Willie Wilson is the first Mayoral Candidate to address the Federal Lawsuit filed by political activist Jay Stone and City of Chicago employee Patrick McDonough. Doctor Willie Wilson is no stranger to the attacks of Chicago Government insiders attempting to discourage his exposing the corruption that has almost brought Chicago to its knees. Doctor Wilson, a famous and long-time humanitarian, gained notoriety recently helping disadvantaged folks pay their outrageous tax bills and speeding tickets that feeds the elite insiders' wallets in Chicago. Doctor Wilson was accused of attempting to influence Chicago Voters, an outrageously false charge. Insiders make these charges to take away the good intentions of a man blessed with financial success and business accouterment.
If anything, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Alderman Burke should be brought to the table for refusing to give generously to the needy. Rahm and Ed squirrel away every penny they can and will not change. What a difference. The taxpayers will see through this.

Doctor Willie Wilson feels this lawsuit filed by Jay Stone and Patrick McDonough appears well justified and Emanuel and Burke should be investigated to the full extent of the law. Wilson further believes that the attorney general should join the lawsuit and be part of the investigation.

Dr. Wilson believes there is a great deal of mismanagement in the City of Chicago under the current administration totaling in the billions of dollars. This 100-million-dollar (workers comp) fund is just the tip of the iceberg.

Dr. Wilson also applauds the Inspector General of the City of Chicago for his new transparency initiative involving a searchable database on the internet. It's more than past time for the public to be able to see where their tax dollars are ending up. Dr. Wilson believes the Inspector General is an important part of the management of the city going forward and intends to support his efforts into the future.

Special thanks to Doctor Wilson, Ms. Foxx, Scott Winslow, Frank Coconate, Mr. Avila, and Mr. Wilson's expert support staff for their profound leadership in real issues affecting Chicago.
Chicago City workers are impressed by Mr. Wilson's stance.

August 16, 2018

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?

August 3, 2018

Ms. Leven of Better Government Association weighs in on Illinois Workers Compensation

Leven: Put Responsibility for Compensating Injured City workers in the City's Hands
Chicago is the only major city to pay injured workers out of its legislative body. Changing that could be something for some enterprising aldermanic candidates to champion.
By Rachel L. Leven August 3, 2018
Perspective

Pop Quiz: Who manages the annual expenditure of more than $100 million to approve and compensate city workers for on-the-job injuries? Is it the head of human resources? Nope. Maybe the city's top lawyer? Try again. Then it must go straight to the mayor? Wrong. It's the finance committee of the city council. And virtually everyone knows, it shouldn't be.

Chicago is the only major city to pay injured workers out of its legislative body. For example, in New York City, the function is located within the legal department. In San Francisco, Houston, and Los Angeles, the function is in the human resources and personnel departments. The way Chicago manages its program enables a lack of transparency, poor oversight, and a shirking of responsibilities to both workers and taxpayers.

Let's start with transparency. The Corporation of the City of Chicago and its employees are subject to the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. The extent to which aldermen are subject to FOIA is a much more complicated question, according to Better Government Association counsel Matt Topic. A benevolent committee chair could decide to make sunshine the default, freely providing appropriate records when they are requested. But, as long as claims are paid by the city council, the chair - whomever is sitting in the position now or in the future - gets to make that decision.

The shadow extends to oversight. According to its jurisdiction, the city's Office of Inspector General should be able to investigate misconduct within the city council. However, audits of the city council were specifically carved out from the inspector general's powers. That means the $100 million plus spent on injured workers annually is not something the office can proactively monitor or audit.

And, it's not just the inspector general, the workers' compensation program historically has been a black box for the city's administration too. Even though the city provides funds for workers' claims from its own coffers, according to a 2016 inspector general report, the city's law and finance departments did not have direct access to the workers compensation claims data kept by the city's finance committee. So who ultimately is responsible for managing taxpayer risk and improving workers' health? Not the city council. They only process the claims. They don't run the city's services, training, or human resource operations. It's the city administration that is responsible, which is exactly why it's city managers who should run the program, not lawmakers.

A lawsuit recently was filed by Jay Stone and Patrick McDonough arguing that the placement of the workers' compensation claims program within the city council violates the separation of powers outlined in the U.S. Constitution. Jay Stone is the son of former Alderman Bernie Stone and was awarded $75,000 after an independent monitor found city workers helped defeat him in his own race for city council. Patrick McDonough is also a former political candidate and an injured worker who believes the committee mishandled his claim. This is not the first time the pair has made a run at the finance committee's powers. It remains unclear if this attempt will be any more successful than previous ones.

However, Stone and McDonough aren't the only ones concerned about the placement of workers' comp, just the most dogged. A 2016 city council resolution called for hearings on the subject. It had two sponsors and went nowhere. Changing who oversees workers' comp claims is not an easy sell politically and would take the support of some powerful people in the city council and the administration or a demand from residents. But an election is on the horizon, so maybe it's time for another attempt at taking workers' comp away from the finance committee. This could be a good government change for some enterprising aldermanic candidates to champion.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rachel L. Leven
Rachel Leven is the BGA's policy manager focusing on Chicago and Cook County. Before joining the BGA, Leven ran communications for the City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG), a nationally renowned municipal oversight agency.

August 2, 2018

Paris Schutz of WTTW exposes Rahm Emanuel and Edward Burke

Lawsuit: City rules allow Ald. Burke to turn Chicago Workers Comp office into patronage 'army'

Lawsuit: City rules allow Ald. Burke to turn Chicago Workers Comp office into patronage 'army'
FILINGS

By Jonathan Bilyk | Jul 31, 2018

Saying the mayor's refusal to wrest control of the city's workers compensation division has allowed Chicago's most powerful alderman to turn the office into a political patronage "army," giving preferential treatment to loyal city workers, a lawsuit brought by a city worker who helped expose the Hired Trucks scandal has asked a federal judge to declare unconstitutional Ald. Ed Burke's management of the office that handles Chicago city workers' workers' comp claims, and force Mayor Rahm Emanuel to oversee operations there, despite city rules delegating the task to Burke.


Saying the mayor's refusal to wrest control of the city's workers compensation division has allowed Chicago's most powerful alderman to turn the office into a political patronage "army," giving preferential treatment to loyal city workers, a lawsuit brought by a city worker who helped expose the Hired Trucks scandal has asked a federal judge to declare unconstitutional Ald. Ed Burke's management of the office that handles Chicago city workers' workers' comp claims, and force Mayor Rahm Emanuel to oversee operations there, despite city rules delegating the task to Burke.

On July 30, plaintiff Patrick McDonough, who works in the city's water department, filed suit in Chicago federal court on his own behalf, along with citizen activist Jay Stone, of Pleasant Prairie, Wis., alleging the arrangement created by Chicago city code, giving the chairman of the city's Finance Committee control of the city's workers comp division violates Illinois law, the Illinois state constitution and U.S. Constitution, by improperly giving control of an executive office function to a member of the legislative branch.

Specifically, the complaint alleges the city's ordinance giving Burke, who represents the city's 14th Ward and chairs the City Council's Finance Committee, does not comply with Illinois state law, which gives Chicago's mayor "the power and duty to appoint and remove all City of Chicago department and division heads."

Further, the plaintiffs argue Burke's oversight of the workers' comp division violates state law prohibiting aldermen from serving as both alderman and an administrator of an executive office. In this case, the complaint asserts Burke should be barred from serving as alderman and "Chief Administrator for the Chicago Workers' Compensation Division," as the "dual roles" create "inherent conflicts of interest," as he is able, as the City Council's Finance Committee chairman, to access $1.4 billion in "water, sewer and vehicle tax funds," and then spend that money through "workers compensation vouchers." The complaint does not specify how much of the "water, sewer and vehicle tax funds" the city may spend on workers compensation claims.


14th Ward Alderman Ed Burke
However, for more than three decades, the lawsuit alleges Chicago's mayors, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel, have allowed Burke to run the workers' comp division. Further, the lawsuit alleges, this arrangement has permitted Burke to use the office to hire workers essentially off the books, sidestepping federal court decrees regulating the hiring of unqualified political patronage workers, and then using the workers' comp office workers as political operatives to bolster Burke's Democratic organization.

According to the complaint, McDonough took note of the alleged arrangement when the city allegedly mismanaged his workers' comp claims. According to the complaint, the correspondence regarding that claim was sent by a Burke employee identified as Monica Somerville, a former top assistant Chicago city attorney whose name had appeared on so-called "City of Chicago Clout List," uncovered by the FBI during its investigation of job-rigging in city departments.

Somerville had been fired by the city's Law Department "for incompetence" less than 18 months after she was first hired, according to the complaint. She then attempted to sue the city for "racial discrimination and sexual harassment," the complaint noted.

Yet, despite her problematic history, Somerville was hired by Burke, ostensibly as a legislative aide. Yet, in correspondence with McDonough, the complaint said she identified herself as "Director of Workers Compensation," a title claim the complaint asserts is false.

The complaint alleges Burke has also used such hiring patterns to fill other staff positions at the workers comp, hiring "political appointees who lacked the requisite workers' compensation education and experience," including employees whose prior work experience was "as a dog groomer, dog walker, hairstylist, waitress, and other jobs unrelated to the administration of Workers' Compensation."

"Alderman Burke's unprofessional recruitment and management of his workers' compensation subordinates create a politicized environment that encourages workers' compensation employees to make bias (sic), unfair decisions based on politics, not merit," the complaint alleged.

If the hiring decisions were handled through the mayor's office, the complaint asserts hiring would need to comply with standards spelled out in the so-called "Shakman Decree," a federal court order directing city departments to evaluate candidates using merit- and qualification-based standards when filling job openings, to reduce political patronage hires.

However, positions classified as legislative are generally exempt from the Shakman rules. By classifying workers comp employees as "legislative" hires, Burke is able to sidestep the Shakman rules, the complaint alleges, giving him direct control of 65 political jobs.

Further, the complaint asserts the workers comp division jobs are not included in the formal budget requests Burke submits to the City Council for the Finance Committee, causing him to submit "annual budgets that were far less than the actual amount his Committee on Finance expended each year" and "deliberately" underreport "the number of employees working for him and the amount of their salaries from at least 2011 to present."

The complaint asserts the mayor is willing to abide by the arrangement to help secure Burke's support on the City Council for legislation and other initiatives supported by the mayor.

And, the complaint noted, Burke has opposed attempts to allow the city's Inspector General's Office to audit the workers' comp division.

"Alderman Burke hires his Workers' Compensation subordinates based on their ability to help him secure votes for himself and his favored candidates," the complaint alleges.

"Alderman Burke provides preferential treatment, including disability pay, benefits and settlements to injured city workers when they are also precinct captains for political bosses throughout Chicago and Cook County," the complaint further alleges. "During election seasons, the City workers - who received preferential workers' compensation benefits from Ald. Burke - campaign and deliver votes for Alderman Burke and his favored candidates."

The complaint asks a federal judge to declare the city rules giving Burke control of the workers comp division illegal and unconstitutional, and "to move the administration of (the city's) Workers' Compensation Division from the legislative branch of government to the executive branch of government for the purpose of having Mayor Emanuel and Ald. Burke comply with the U.S. Constitution, Illinois Constitution and (state laws.)"

And the complaint asks the judge to give the Inspector General "permission to conduct a ... financial audit and claims review for the last seven years and allow OIG to release its findings to the public."

McDonough, who works as a plumber in the city's Water Department, was fired in 2005, ostensibly for violating city worker residency rules. Mr. McDonough won his job back after a legal battle won by John Loevy of Loevy and Loevy in Federal Court. However, McDonough had four years earlier complained to the city's Inspector General of payments improperly made to politically-connected trucking firms, whose trucks were supposedly being used for city projects, yet were actually sitting idle. The resulting investigation of the so-called Hired Trucks scandal also led to a federal investigation of city job-rigging practices, together resulting in indictments and convictions of former city officials.

July 23, 2018

Do Not HIre Neal Strom Law Firm for your Workers Compensation Claim

Neal Strom Final.jpg If you are looking for a great workers compensation attorney, make sure you do not hire Neal Strom. I was very unhappy with Neal Strom and his Chicago law firm. Many lawyers talk a great line of shit to obtain your business and then do nothing. Stay away from this lawyer. Chicago has many great workers compensation lawyers, and you need an honest one at the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission to get your benefits. I just got emails from Avvo because someone objected to my poor rating of Neal Strom. I proved my point and Neal Strom has a lousy rating. I wish he worked that hard on my case.

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: ward14@cityofchicago.org

Archives