Cook County Record

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Former county nursing boss sues over alleged whistleblowing-related firing

By Dan Harkins | Jul 8, 2015

Cook County Correctional Dept.

A former nursing supervisor at one of Cook County's inmate units is suing over being terminated, allegedly in retaliation for raising a red flag about missing narcotics.

Barbara Tominac filed a complaint June 30 in Cook County Circuit Court against Cook County and the Cook County Health and Hospital System. 

On Dec. 30, 2012, Tominac, a registered nurse, was hired by the defendant to be a nurse coordinator for the Cermak Health Services of Cook County. On July 2014, while reviewing various District 3 inmate grievances, she noticed that "a great number of inmates complained that they did not receive their prescription medications, which included narcotics and psychotropic medicines," the lawsuit states.

After an investigation by Tominac, it was revealed that the grievances held merit, the lawsuit states. In July 2014, Tominac informed District 3's sheriff's superintendent, as well as the Department of Behavioral Health. She also informed her supervisor, Pamela A. Brown, who told her to drop her investigation, the lawsuit states. From July to October 2014, Tominac persisted in contacting Brown about the matter, and nothing was allegedly done.

In October, Tominac contacted the director of the Cook County Department of Corrections' pharmacy, as well as the Department of Behavioral Health for Division 3; then she went on medical leave.

When she returned in December, the lawsuit states, she was reassigned to the county corrections department's Residential Treatment Unit. Soon after, the lawsuit states, she noticed about 90 percent of inmate grievances for the RTU didn't utilize the Accuflow program to determine the reasons for medications not being administered, similar to the other grievances she had observed.

She complained again, the lawsuit states, but nothing was allegedly done. Then, on Dec. 23, 2014, Brown filed written charges against Tominac "to silence and punish (her) for her refusal to not pursue and remedy the undelivered prescription medicines and theft of same," the lawsuit states. Further, Tominac was ordered to attend a disciplinary hearing on Jan. 12, 2015. On Feb. 6, 2015, she was fired "without cause and in retaliation for (her) desire to expose the misuse, theft and/or diversion of inmate medicines and the failure to follow procedures governing the tracking of inmate medication," the lawsuit states.

The plaintiff, citing retaliatory discharge and violation of the state Whistleblowers Protection Act, seeks damages for loss of wages, benefits, future lost wages and benefits, and emotional distress of more than $50,000, plus punitive damages, attorney's fees, court costs and prejudgment interest.

The plaintiff is represented by Aldo E. and John E. Botti, of the Botti Law Firm PC in Oak Brook.

Cook County Circuit Court case number 2015L006646.

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