Files legislation compelling former state employees to cooperate with investigations
State Senator Sue Rezin (R-Morris) joined area veterans’ groups to demand more accountability and actions regarding the COVID-19 outbreak at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home, the deadliest outbreak at a state-run facility in Illinois history.
“The tragedy that occurred at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home shouldn’t have ever happened,” said Sen. Rezin. “The residents of the LaSalle Veterans’ Home served and protected our nation when we needed it, but when they need us to serve and protect them, our state failed them miserably.”
In response to this failure, Sen. Rezin has filed several pieces of legislation that would help prevent future devastating outbreaks from occurring and would open a truly independent investigation into the LaSalle Home’s outbreak. However, the bills have not received a committee hearing.
The legislation includes:
- Senate Bill 1471: requires facilities licensed and operated by the State to conduct outbreak preparedness drills.
- Senate Bill 2251: requires IDPH to have an onsite visit within one business day of an infectious outbreak at a veterans’ home. An outbreak is defined as two or more individuals who have contracted an infectious disease within 48 hours of the first diagnosis.
- Senate Bill 2252: requires the Auditor General to conduct a performance audit of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) and the Department of Public Health’s (IDPH) management of the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home.
“I have not been given an explanation on why these bills are being held,” said Sen. Rezin. “The fact that these important and potentially life-saving bills have been essentially blocked is embarrassing and disrespectful to the lives of the veterans we lost at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home.”
Additionally, after learning that Former IDVA Director Linda Chapa La Via and LaSalle Veterans’ Home Administrator Angela Mehlbrech refused to cooperate with the Inspector General’s investigation, Sen. Rezin has filed new legislation.
“When I learned that former Director Chapa La Via and the Home’s Administrator refused to cooperate with the OIG’s investigation, I was outraged,” Sen. Rezin. “How could we allow the former director of IDVA and the head of the veterans’ home refuse to answer questions about an outbreak that cost the lives of 36 veterans? It is unacceptable, and the state legislature needs to provide the Inspector General with the power to get the answers they need.”
Senate Bill 1445 would give the Inspector General the authority to subpoena former agency directors, senior administrator, or any other individual who, while employed at the Department, had the authority to implement policy action for the Department, an agency under contract with the Department, or any facility or program operated for or licensed or funded by the Department.
Sen. Rezin is urging the General Assembly to swiftly take up all of these critically important legislation before the end of spring legislative calendar.
“There may only be a few more weeks left in May, but there is still plenty of time for us to do the right thing, said Sen. Rezin. “There is still time to pass these bills. There is still time for us to help ensure that nothing like this happens again.”