News Article Details

County banned him from his office after PTSD episode. Now they'll pay his legal fees.

Belleville News-Democrat - 5/3/2019

May 03-- May 3--In 2016, Brad Lavite had a mental breakdown his doctor's attributed to PTSD from his military service during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Lavite, who heads the Madison County Veteran's Assistance Commission, was arrested and later banned from entering the county building where he worked.

Almost three years later, county taxpayers will pay more than $58,000 in legal fees from lawsuits filed against Madison County by the commission and Lavite.

Lavite was allowed to keep his job, but forced to work from his home because of the ban. The VAC and Lavite's attorney filed several lawsuits against the county, two of which remain unresolved.

Following his election in 2016, Madison County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler made it his first act in office to allow Lavite back into the administrative building. The lawsuits still left the county on the hook for legal fees that accrued during the ban.

In total, the county is set to pay $58,870.47 in VAC legal expenses from the 2016 budget year.

He argued that since he was cleared by a PTSD specialist at St. Louis Veterans Administration Medical Center to return to work, he shouldn't have been banned. But Madison County's psychologist disagreed with that assessment.

"All the county had to do was listen to our doctor and allow me back into the building, but I was told no," Lavite told the board.

The Veteran Assistance Commission, an independent agency, sued the county, but the case was dismissed. It was later reinstated by the 5th Appellate Court and returned to Madison County. Lavite also filed another lawsuit alleging Madison County violated his civil rights.

The appellate court recently ordered the county to pay the fees, though there would be no practical means of collecting them. Board members voted 25-2 to adhere to the court ruling and cover the legal fees.

Parkinson said the board was put into a situation where, if it voted against making the fees, it would be viewed as "anti-veteran."

"We're being put into a trick bag here where we're being told that a vote against this would be against veterans," he said. "None of this money is going to help one single veteran. It's going to a lawyer."

Though he voted in favor of paying the VAC's legal fees, Board Member Mike Parkinson called the lawsuits filed by Lavite "frivolous." He objected to the idea that the county would be giving taxpayer money to an attorney and not to veterans who may need it.

"How much of this money we're talking about is going to help one single veteran?" he said. "I don't think it's any. I think it's going to an attorney who keeps filing frivolous lawsuits, in my opinion, and it's not going to stop."

Board member Donald Moore cautioned that a no-vote could potentially lead to further lawsuits.

"If we continue to fight this they could probably take us to court and this amount we're paying her could grow into something much larger," he said. "It makes our decision more difficult but we need to take that into consideration."

Lavite said he's ready to end his fight with the county and move on. Although, he said the county paying the fees would be an important step toward vindication.

"I've been battling this county for four years. Four years because of a PTSD episode." Lavite said. "I'm sorry I had a PTSD episode but I should not have to apologize."

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(c)2019 the Belleville News-Democrat (Belleville, Ill.)

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