State agency sues attorney general’s office

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By Mark Fitton

Illinois News Network

SPRINGFIELD — One of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s department heads is suing Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and asking the court to remove the attorney general’s office from certain workers compensation cases.

The lawsuit was filed Nov. 13 in Sangamon County by Tom Tyrrell, director of the Illinois Department of Central Management Services, an executive branch agency answerable to the governor.

The attorney general’s office has yet to file its response with the court, but that response is coming, a spokeswoman said. “We strongly disagree with CMS' allegations and will be responding in court,” said Annie Thompson, deputy press secretary.

Tyrrell’s lawsuit argues that Illinois statute and case law establish that personal assistants paid through the Illinois Department of Human Services are not employees of the state but are instead employees of the people who hire them to work in their homes.

The suit focuses on two workers compensation claims filed by one such care assistant, Stephanie Yencer-Price.

Tyrrell’s attorneys contend that despite CMS’ requests, the attorney general’s office refuses to raise the defense that personal assistants are not state employees and therefore not entitled to workers compensation benefits from the state.

The lawsuit also says the attorney general’s office has objected to the appointment of special assistant attorneys general chosen by CMS.

Central Management Services says the attorney general’s office had as recently as July 2014 instructed its attorneys to seek dismissal in each personal care assistant case on the grounds personal assistant were not state employees.

And, Tyrrell said, a Sangamon County court in another case held there was no employer-employee relationship between the state and Yencer-Price.

Tyrrell says he was compelled to file the lawsuit because there are more than 30,000 personal assistants working throughout the state and that workers comp claims by those assistants have been filed in the hundreds and resulted in payouts of millions of dollars.

Tyrrell asks the court to:

n  Prohibit the attorney general’s office from representing the administration before the Workers Compensation Commission on such cases.

n  Appoint special assistant attorneys general for the department in such cases.

n  Or allow the commission to appoint special assistant attorneys general in these cases.

The lawsuit marks at least the third time lawyers for the administration and the attorney general have publicly clashed since Rauner took office in January.

Earlier, the governor’s and attorney general’s offices disagreed over the state’s legal authority to pay employees while the state is without a budget. Those employees are being paid, although litigation continues.

The governor’s office and Madigan’s solicitor general also clashed recently on whether gubernatorial staff attorneys could file friend-of-the-court briefs on behalf of the governor in a U.S. Supreme Court case.

That disagreement resulted in dueling letters to the Supreme Court, but no legal action.

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