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Watchdog Group Wants Chicago WC Program Out of City Council Control

Monday, August 6, 2018 | 0

A government corruption watchdog group has voiced its support for efforts to move Chicago's workers' compensation program out from under the control of a powerful city alderman.

Rachel Leven

Rachel Leven

"Chicago is the only major city to pay injured workers out of its legislative body," Rachel Leven, policy manager at the Better Government Association, wrote in Crain's Chicago Business this week. "The way Chicago manages its program enables a lack of transparency, poor oversight, and a shirking of responsibilities to both workers and taxpayers."

Leven's opinion piece comes just days after a political activist and an injured city worker filed a federal lawsuit against Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Alderman Ed Burke, alleging that corruption and patronage are rife within the program.

The suit argues that the placement of the program within the legislative branch of city government violates the separation of powers clause in state law, and in the Illinois and the U.S. constitutions. It seeks to move the workers' compensation to the mayor's office, the executive branch.

The suit was filed by activist Jay Stone, the son of a former alderman, and by city plumber Patrick McDonough. Stone was awarded $75,000 after an independent monitor ruled that city workers helped defeat him in his own race for City Council several years ago.

McDonough has alleged that Burke's City Council Finance Committee, which oversees the city compensation program, mishandled his claim and shut off his benefits inappropriately.

That lawsuit may have little chance of survival, one constitutional law professor told WorkCompCentral, because the U.S. Constitution has little bearing on state law.

"First, federal separation of powers principles only apply to the structure and operation of the U.S. government, not the state governments," said Robert Williams, professor of law at Rutgers University. "Second, often the state constitutional separation of powers principles don’t apply to local governments."


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