Mt. Vernon Register-News

March 6, 2014

Jail nurse files complaint

By RICK HAYES rick.hayes@register-news.com
The Register-News

---- — MT. VERNON — A former nurse at the Jefferson County Justice Center has filed a three-count complaint in Jefferson Circuit Court.

The complaint was filed on Feb. 24 by Alton attorneys Lee W. Barron and William D. Buchanan on behalf of Alberta “Sissy” Brown.

Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department has been named as the defendant in the lawsuit, which on Tuesday was assigned by Resident Judge Jo Beth Weber to Judge Tom Dinn. Dinn is in Jefferson County on Friday and is expected to set a hearing date this week.

Brown, who was employed by the sheriff’s department in December 2004 as the nurse supervisor, claims during the course of her employment she made requests to the department for additional nursing staff, additional equipment and other resources to provide adequate and contractually requisite medical services to inmates at the jail.

In December 2012, Brown learned the department hired a specific physician, Dr. M.H., to work at the jail and provide medical services to inmates. Brown researched the physician and learned he had a history of drug-related discipline; he had previously had his medical license suspended. Brown believed and determined the physician in question was ineligible for employment at the jail with the ICE (Immigrations & Customs Enforcement) prisoners due to the terms of the ICE contract and on information and belief other statutory and regulatory requirements.

On Jan. 11, 2013, Brown had a conversation with Sheriff Roger Mulch in which Brown disclosed the physician’s history and she refused to work with the doctor believing it was a violation of the ICE contract.

On the same day, a few hours after the disclosure, Brown’s employment was terminated, according to the complaint.

The reason given to Brown for the termination was that Brown “failed to provide proper oversight as the nursing supervisor” and failed to report inmate sexual misconduct to her immediate supervisor.

Brown further claims the termination was in retaliation for her disclosure of the physician’s drug-related discipline and refusing to participate in the decision to hire the physician.

Brown is seeking damages in excess of $75,000, including but not limited to: all back wages and benefits, all appropriate front pay and benefits, pre- and post-judgment interest, emotional distress and compensatory damages and “such further and additional relief as the court in its discretion deems appropriate and just.”

Count II specifies Brown seeks retaliatory discharge-punitive damages because she has suffered and will continue to suffer and incur loss of income, loss of benefits, emotional distress, embarrassment and humiliation. Brown states the defendant’s retaliatory termination was punitive and malicious and seeks punitive and exemplary damages in excess of $75,000.

In Count III, Brown claims her termination violates the Illinois Whistleblower Act, noting in the complaint that shortly after the sheriff’s department hired Dr. M.H. his employment was terminated as a result of attempting to break into a medicine cabinet.

Brown seeks in Count III attorneys’ fees pursuant to the Illinois Whistleblower Act and such damages in excess of $75,000 as the court finds necessary to compensate Brown for the damages imposed on her by the defendant.

Brown demands a trial by jury on all counts, information states.