Boating prison guard receives $48,000 workers’ compensation award
An Illinois Department of Corrections guard who became the target of a fraud investigation after he participated in a fishing tournament while out on total disability collected $48,000 tax-free for his injury.
Former IDOC Director Salvador Godinez launched the investigation after pictures surfaced last year of Lance Fancher out on a boat while he was being paid while on disability. Fancher is back on the job, earning $66,000 annually working as a guard at the Vienna Correctional Center in Southern Illinois.
At the time, Godinez said his administration had “absolutely zero tolerance for employee misconduct of any type.” The corrections department won’t say anything about the investigation, even whether it is ongoing.
The investigation was ordered because at the time of the fishing contest, Fancher was out of work on temporary total disability collecting his full salary under a regulation called “extended benefits,” which allows a corrections officer who has been injured by an inmate to recuperate without losing pay.
Fancher spent 352 days off work, but on full pay, after stating he was incapable of working following a fight in October 2013. The fight was between inmates. Fancher and other guards tried to intervene. An emergency room exam of Fancher showed no injuries at the time, according to a physician’s report.
Last month, his claim for injuries he said he got breaking up the inmate fight was settled for $48,000 tax-free, minus 15 percent to his Swansea lawyer Tom Rich. Fancher previously requested that he not be contacted by the News-Democrat. It was his fifth workers’ compensation.
Prison system spokeswoman Nicole Wilson would not say whether the department’s investigation cleared Fancher of wrongdoing. She also declined to answer questions about whether the investigation was completed.
“I cannot provide details about any investigation concerning Mr. Fancher,” she said.
But Fancher lost two earlier claims — both for repetitive trauma injuries — after hearings in September where, despite the testimony of physicians, the hearing officer denied any benefits, stating that information provided to the medical experts by Fancher and a witness was not accurate, according to a report on the decisions.
“There were two consolidated cases where Mr. Fancher sought to recover for repetitive motion injuries to his wrist and elbow as the result of his work,” Ann Spillane, chief of staff for Attorney General Lisa Madigan, said.
“We vigorously defended those cases and ultimately at the arbitrator (hearing officer) level we succeeded in defending them because the arbitrator raised questions whether the doctors had a complete picture of Mr. Fancher’s work history,” Spillane said, “whether they had a complete and accurate picture of his repetitive motions based on the fact that they did not seem completely aware that he had changed his job duties many times during the course of his employment with IDOC.”