- Associated Press - Monday, December 1, 2014

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Four Illinois Department of Human Rights employees assigned to investigate allegations of discrimination forged signatures and falsified documents to cover for work they didn’t do, while supervisors failed to monitor them, a report issued Monday said.

The Office of the Executive Inspector General found that the four employees - who all resigned in late 2011 or 2012 amid the investigation - doctored documents to show they had been given more time to probe complaints, then did little work toward completing the reviews.

“The very persons DHR hired to investigate claims of unlawful discrimination themselves engaged in misconduct,” Executive Inspector General Ricardo Meza said in the report.

The investigative report also chastised the agency for its lack of oversight. It noted that Human Rights supervisors generally stopped monitoring investigators after six months on the job, did not check on whether subordinates followed rules and protocol while investigations were underway, and did not oversee investigative files until after reports were submitted for review.

None of the supervisors questioned was named in the report or disciplined. Supervisors suggested inadequate staff contributes to the lack of oversight.

The agency identified the four employees as Isabella Gordon, Derrick Venton, Jill Parker and Dean Reed.

Contacted at her home, Parker declined comment. Reed did not immediately return a call seeking comment. Numbers for Gordon and Venton could not be located. Each was offered the chance to respond in writing to the report, but none did, according to David Morrison, spokesman for the inspector.

The Human Rights department is supposed to root out discrimination of any kind in the state and promote equal opportunity and affirmative action. Complaints must be settled within 365 days unless extensions are agreed to by both the person making the complaint and the target of the complaint.

The probe found that investigators reported, on an electronic agency system, extensions that had not been agreed to by both sides. Required paper copies of the extensions included corrective marks and signatures that appeared to be superimposed or forged, and in some cases appeared to have been created by cobbling portions of documents together using transparent tape.

In the agency’s response, DHR chief legal counsel Lon Meltesen said officials will now conduct quarterly reviews of each investigator’s caseload, conduct “random and unannounced audits” of investigators’ files, explore creating a position of investigator trainee for new hires to allow for more supervision and conduct regular “refresher” training for all investigators.

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Online

Office of the Executive Inspector General: https://1.usa.gov/1yD3nP5

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Contact John O’Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor


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