EDWARDSVILLE — The Republican state’s attorney candidate’s call for Madison County to allow the superintendent of the Veterans Assistance Commission’ to return to his office prompted a rebuke from Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan.
In a press release, candidate for state’s attorney Ron Williams asked Dunstan to allow Veterans Assistance Commission Superintendent Brad Lavite go back to work in his office at the Administration Building.
Lavite was banned from county facilities after law enforcement representatives notified county officials that he potentially posed a threat to the safety of county employees and the public. The threat was related to the contents of a police dashcam video and the events surrounding Lavite’s arrest in March 2015. Despite the ban, Lavite has continued to receive regular paychecks.
The county on Aug. 15 submitted a motion to the Third Judicial Circuit Court requesting the case be resolved by mediation .
Williams also called on State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons, the county’s legal counsel, to advise Dunstan that discriminating against a disabled and decorated combat veteran is opening up the county taxpayers to significant financial liability.
“Banning Maj. Bradley Lavite from the administration building is wrong and clearly not legal,” Williams said. “Every day in the administration building, many individuals who have been convicted of violent offenses enter the building to visit the probation department and they have a right to do so. Banning Lavite for a PTSD episode over a year ago is wrong and the position is legally indefensible.”
In a press release later Friday, Dunstan criticized Williams for using Lavite’s medical condition to score political points. He said the county’s approach to Lavite’s work status has received bipartisan support.
“As a lawyer and candidate for public office, I am dismayed that Mr. Williams would ignore the potential liability to Madison County, and ultimately to our taxpayers, in the event an individual who has demonstrated violent behavior on multiple occasions, were permitted to return without proper medical clearances,” Dunstan said.
“When Mr. Lavite, who has continued to be paid while this matter is being addressed, has satisfied the requirements established by county officials — with the support of Madison County Board members — he will be welcomed,” Dunstan said. “As County Board chairman, I would never use a veteran to gain political points, as Mr. Williams is clearly doing. Veterans should be held in the highest regard for their service and their sacrifices.”
Williams said a lawyer representing Lavite filed a civil rights case in federal court, asking that he be allowed to return to work. According to Williams, Lavite recently received a legal victory in the Illinois 5th Appellate Court, moving another case against the county forward in circuit court.
“Every day that Dunstan denies Lavite an opportunity to go back to work is another day Madison County veterans are impacted and the potential penalties for this decision increase,” Williams said. “I know firsthand that the stress of combat is a lifelong condition that impacts people differently. We owe it to our combat veterans to get them the help they need and support them as their careers move them in another path away from the military.”
Williams spent 32 years in the Army and retired as a colonel. He is a graduate of USMA at West Point and spent two tours in Vietnam, where he received three Bronze Stars, and he recently published a book about his experience in Vietnam called “We Were Winning When I Left.”
“As state’s attorney, I will work closely with the veterans groups to make sure we have the best interest of veterans who enter the Madison County legal system,” Williams said. “I believe the way the county is handling Lavite’s PTSD episode is sending the wrong message to all military personnel and veterans. Given the county’s proximity to Scott Air Force Base and its positive impact on our economy, we have duty to treat veterans in a respectful manner.”
The release from Dunstan’s office said six veterans on the county board, three Republicans and three Democrats, supported how the county is handling the issue.
“This is not a personal issue, despite Mr. Williams attempt to make it one,” the release states. “The issue is about the safety of Madison County employees and the thousands of people who visit the Administration Building and Courthouse on a regular basis.
“Everyone at Madison County respects Mr. Lavite and all the veterans who put their lives on the line to protect our safety and the freedoms all Americans enjoy. However, we would be remiss in our duty to our employees and the public is we were to permit Mr. Lavite to return to the Administration Building without assurances from a doctor who has examined him and the video of the most recent incident involving Mr. Lavite (March 2015), and subsequently certifies that Mr. Lavite is not a safety risk and is fit to return to work.”