As the federal case by the Murray Parents Association against the State of Illinois moves forward, both the MPA and the union representing state employees are accusing Murray management of intimidation and making libelous statements regarding the case and the MPA.
Anne Irving, director of Public Policy for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 sent out an email Friday regarding those accusations.
“Despite the rumors management has been trying to spread, the court case is very much alive and the MPA scored another victory September 3rd,” says Irving’s email.
Irving explains that Judge Marvin Aspen had planned to hear the case September 9 in Chicago, but has postponed the hearing until early October.
The delay was necessary, she says, as the judge ruled Sept. 3 that DHS must release more than a hundred documents to the MPA attorneys – and gave DHS only three hours to produce them.
The rumors being spread by management to which Irving refers are reportedly claiming that the federal judge has already made a decision in the case, but that the MPA is keeping it quiet to allow them to continue fundraising.
MPA President Rita Winkeler addressed those rumors and claims in an email last week to Murray Center director Jamie Veach that a certain chief security officer who transferred to Murray from the now shuttered Jacksonville has been, “… telling staff that Judge Aspen has already made his decision to close Murray.”
She says in the email that along with that statement the security officer has been sending messages to staff at Murray stating that the judge decided last Thursday he couldn’t stop the closure and, “That its over but parents are keeping it quiet so the money keeps coming in.”
Management threatened with libel suit
Winkeler then tells Veach to “cease and desist these libelous statements,” and that she is prepared to sue both him and the security officer for libel.
Irving notes that MPA and state center family organizations around Illinois are in federal court to ensure that the services their loved ones need – like Murray Center – remain available.
They also want to ensure that DHS respects the rights of individuals living at Murray and other state centers, and the rights of their guardians.
She adds that while it is frustrating that MPA’s day in court was postponed again, it was good news, as the temporary restraining order requiring guardian approval for any movement out of Murray remains in place until the judge decides after the October hearing whether to order an injunction.
“In light of this development, the union has contacted DHS management stating that any meetings to discuss a closure agreement for Murray Center should wait until after the October hearing.”
Winkeler says she feels the state must be “desperate to spread such vicious lies.
She challenges the rumors reportedly being spread by Murray management regarding Judge Aspen’s statements, noting,”What he says is that the center could close, but that federal law has to be followed. This is what our entire lawsuit is about — federal laws are being violated and we are proving this. At no time has he ever said he will close Murray Center.”
Winkeler says the MPA’s first concern is the residents of Murray, adding that the MPA has stood for decency and doing what is best for their loved ones for over 40 years and she will not allow their reputation to be spoiled by lies.
DHS spokeswoman Januari Smith was contacted with these claims, but has not yet responded with comments.