Quinn: Workers' comp overhaul coming

April 1, 2011 4:42:20 PM PDT
Governor Pat Quinn says next week he will announce an overhaul of the workers' compensation system in Illinois.

The reforms come as criminal investigations zero in on possible widespread abuses in the state Department of Corrections.

Some might consider this closing the barn door after the horses have all run away. But Friday, Governor Pat Quinn said workers' comp laws and the state commission in charge of enforcement both need to be revamped. The governor promises reform legislation will be unveiled next week

It comes though as federal and state investigators are already in the barn looking through the hay.

At an appearance Friday, Quinn was talking green environment but answering questions about a different kind of green: millions of dollars that may have been illegally paid in workers' compensation claims, especially at the Menard State Prison, where more than half of the workforce has received settlements for alleged on-the-job injuries.

"We don't want anyone 'gaming' the system," said Quinn. "We want to make that sure everything is investigated from top to bottom."

One man under investigation: the warden at Menard Prison, Dave Rednour.

In 2009, Rednour was on total temporary disability, recovering from surgery on his arm after what he described as repetitive on-the-job trauma. He was awarded $75,678 in a tax-free settlement.

Rednour's injury claim is in question after a picture taken during his six-week disability leave showed him on a bass fishing trip with Alexi Giannoulias, at the time the state treasurer, and Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate.

The governor declined to answer I-Team questions Friday about whether he plans to oust the warden.

"If the changes have to be made, then so be it," said Quinn.

Hundreds of Department of Corrections workers now under scrutiny include former Du Quoin Prison Lieutenant Calvin Landis, who 8 years ago claimed an on-the-job back injury, never worked another day, but has received $1,100 a week disability ever since.

In 2008, Landis was seen on a ladder, power washing his house and scrubbing aluminum gutters by hand.

His case is among those subjected to federal subpoenas in February, demanding email about workers' comp claims regarding workers at Menard Prison and other state employees.

The subpoenas asked for records of two state central management and attorney general officials and two state arbitrators who approved settlements.

"I don't want anybody doing anything wrong and if we find 'em we'll apprehend them and they'll get the proper punishment," said Quinn.

Governor Quinn says that by reforming Illinois workers' comp system, taxpayers will save money and businesses won't pay more than necessary. He promises to hammer out a new plan with legislators and get it passed by the end of May.