Reporting Laurence Holmes
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Feds Open Wide-Scale Probe Into State Workers Compensation ClaimsSPRINGFIELD, IL (STMW) -- Federal investigators have opened a wide-scale criminal probe into the way state government compensates its injured workers, targeting three state arbitrators and a rash of claims at a downstate prison and in seven different state agencies. Federal prosecutors in Springfield and Fairview Heights in southwestern Illinois issued subpoenas in February seeking records on workers compensation claims filed since Jan. 1, 2006 by scores of government employees. The subpoenas obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times show an emphasis on claims filed by workers at the Menard Correctional Center, where the Belleville News-Democrat has reported more than $10 million has been paid to 389 prison employees since 2008, including the prison’s warden. That total included more than 230 guards who have claimed they developed repetitive-stress injuries caused ostensibly by manually locking and unlocking prisoner cell doors, the downstate newspaper reported. “This is not common,” Illinois Department of Corrections spokeswoman Sharyn Elman said of the volume of on-the-job injury claims coming from Menard, one of Illinois’ oldest prisons. “We haven’t seen anything like that in our other prisons, and we have prisons almost as old as Menard.” The subpoenas were received by the Department of Corrections, the Department of Central Management Services, the Department of Insurance and the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission. A spokeswoman for the Workers Compensation Commission, which issues taxpayer-funded awards to injured government workers, declined comment about the subpoenas. A Feb. 14 subpoena issued to CMS also sought records that “in any way” deal with workers compensation claims filed since 2006, by employees at the Department of Human Services, Central Management Services, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, the State Board of Education, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, the Department of Health Care and Family Services and the Office of the Executive Inspector General. That same subpoena sought e-mails, personnel records and reimbursement documents dating back to 2006 for two Workers Compensation Commission arbitrators, Jennifer Teague and John Dibble, who were placed on paid administrative leave from their $115,836-a-year jobs with no public explanation on Feb. 15, one day after the subpoenas hit. Similar records were requested for a third arbitrator, Andrew Nalefski, who remains on the job; CMS employee Susan J. LeMasters and former Illinois attorney general’s office employee Bill Schneider, who handled workers compensation cases on behalf of Lisa Madigan’s office but left the attorney general’s payroll in December. Workers Compensation Commission spokeswoman Alka Nayyar said Teague and Dibble handled some of the claims coming out of Menard but declined further comment on their status, citing an ongoing Department of Insurance probe into the situation at Menard. Messages left at Teague’s home and with her St. Louis attorney were not returned. Dibble could not be reached. Messages left for Nalefski, LeMasters and Schneider were not returned. In an unusual twist, Teague and Dibble, who ruled on the legitimacy and size of workers compensation claims, had their own workers compensation claims. Teague’s case seeking compensation for cubital tunnel injury on her right arm last April is still pending, while Dibble received a tax-free $48,790 settlement last June for on-the-job hand injuries, records show. In October, Madigan’s office submitted a complaint against Teague to the state Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission for allegedly trying to get her own workers compensation claim settled in exchange for speeding up a hearing on a complicated and delayed case in which the attorney general’s office was representing the state. Teague broached that trade-off because she said she was “really cash-strapped right now and has two mortgages” and wanted a settlement sooner, the complaint alleged. Madigan’s office also accused Teague of using a lawyer in her own case who worked on other claims on her docket of workers compensation cases in Mount Vernon or Belleville. In a February follow-up complaint spurred by reporting by the News-Democrat, Teague also was accused of attempting to conceal a public hearing and minimize press coverage over a workers compensation claim sought by former Illinois State Trooper Matt Mitchell. In late November 2007, Mitchell was driving his squad car at 126 mph on a southwestern Illinois interstate when he lost control of his cruiser and struck an oncoming car carrying two teenage sisters from downstate Collinsville, killing both of them. Teague ultimately denied his attempt to be compensated for crash injuries to his legs, but Mitchell has appealed that ruling. He resigned from the Illinois State Police last year after pleading guilty to two counts of reckless homicide and being sentenced to 30 months of probation. © Sun-Times Media Wire Chicago Sun-Times 2011. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed
By Laurence Holmes-
(WSCR) This week starts a strange stretch of games for the Bears.
In the next four weeks, they will play every team in the AFC West. It leaves the Bears with some opportunities to pick up some wins but they must be aware of some speed bumps along the way. The Chargers are up first. They have a ton of injuries but still present some dangers. Here are the matchups that I’m looking at:
Julius Peppers vs. Chargers O line: Last week, Philip Rivers was sacked six times. Beyond that, he got knocked down quite a bit. The Bears as a defense are ranked third in the NFL with 37 quarterback knockdowns. Kris Deilman is already on IR. Marcus McNeil is out for Sunday. Last week when McNeil left the game, Brandyn Dombrowski filled in for him. He gave up four sacks and 10 quarterback pressures. The nice folks over at profootballfocus.com have Dombrowski listed as having the two worst single-game grades they’ve ever given out. As much fun as it’s been to see Peppers work against guards the last few weeks, I’m not sure there’s a reason for him to bounce. They’ll be plenty of opportunities for him on the outside. Expect to see a tight end kept in and a back chip to try and slow Peppers down, who has four sacks in his last four games.
Mike Scifers vs Devin Hester: Scifers is the Chris Rongey of punters, meaning that he routinely outkicks his coverage. With that being said, when he’s asked to kick the ball high and allow his coverage team to work for him, he’s pretty good at it. Here’s what he told the Chargers website about dealing with Hester.
“He is going to go down as probably the best punt returner/kick returner to ever play in the NFL. It’s a great challenge for me as a punter to have a great day and a great challenge for us as a unit to stop him. I think we’ll approach it the same way we approach everyone else. We’re going to play our game, I’ll try and get the best punts off that I can with the best hang time and allow for our guys to cover the best they can. Again, it’s going to be a great challenge. Come Sunday I think that we’ll be ready for it. We’ve proven up until this point that we can overcome a lot of stuff and get better week-to-week. This is just another week for us to get better.”
There aren’t many weaknesses to Hester’s game, but forcing him to make decisions on fair catches might be the Chargers best defense against him. Going high is the best way to insure that. Trying to angle it out of bounds has proven difficult for opposing punters and usually ends up giving the Bears great field position.
Mike Tolbert vs Bears Defense: If you haven’t seen Tolbert, he’s fun to watch. He’s a bowling ball with legs. A tough, downhill runner who is a pain to deal with. He searches out contact and bounces off tacklers. According to Stats Inc., Tolbert has 53.3 percent of his yards this season after contact. That leads the AFC West, which has a couple of really tough backs in it. He is the type of back that the Bears have issues with. He’s a squatty-body back: 5-foot-9-inches, 247 pounds, so he has the low center of gravity. The Bears will have to make sure that they don’t just arm tackle because he runs through them.
Ryan Matthews is the “lightning” to Tolbert’s “thunder” and he has the ability to get to outside and is almost as difficult to bring down as Tolbert.
Phillip Rivers vs Cover-2: Last week, the Raiders were able to get pressure on Rivers without a ton of blitzing. They dropped guys into coverage and forced River to try and march the Chargers down the field. With all of the injuries and new personnel on the offensive line, that was difficult. Rivers started seeing ghosts. He rarely was able to set his feet and go down field. The Bears have mixed up their coverages very nicely over the last month, but this may be the type of game where they can sit in Cover-2 and frustrate the opposing quarterback.
Follow me on game day on twitter (and notice the new handle) @LaurenceWHolmes. I’ll do my best to keep you updated on everything that is going on.