A DuPage County judge has ordered the state's highest-ranking public health official to appear in court to explain why he shouldn't be held in contempt for failing to turn over investigative records related to potential elder abuse.
Prosecutors asked Judge Kathryn Creswell on Tuesday to make the finding after representatives from the Illinois Department of Public Health failed to appear in court. Assistant State's Attorney Ken Tatarelis said the department has been essentially unresponsive to subpoenas issued as part of grand jury investigations into undisclosed allegations of abuse at three DuPage nursing homes.
"They responded, but their responses were, in a sense, nonresponsive to the information sought in the subpoenas," he said.
Creswell ordered Illinois Department of Public Health Director LaMar Hasbrouck to appear in court July 26 and either provide the records or explain why his office has not complied with the subpoenas. If Hasbrouck is found to be in contempt of court, he could face a variety of penalties, from a fine to jail time.
Tatarelis said the records involve complaints about potential elder abuse at three unnamed nursing facilities. He said the state initially investigates any such reports, and prosecutors want records of those investigations.
In a statement, Hasbrouck's office said it is restricted in what documents it can share.
"The department has objected numerous times to subpoenas requesting federal survey documents," spokeswoman Sabrina Miller said in an email. "Federal regulations limit the department's authority to disclose certain survey documents. The department has consulted the Illinois Attorney General's office for representation."
Prosecutors would not comment or elaborate on the specific allegations under investigation. They said the state health department had been served with a court order to appear before the grand jury Tuesday with the records.
Hasbrouck is a longtime public health administrator and former public health director in Ulster County, N.Y.
He took office in Illinois just last month, replacing Dr. Damon Arnold, and has already gained notoriety for advocating a $1-a-pack tax hike on cigarettes. He also visited Wheaton earlier this month to raise awareness about men's health issues.
Court: Director took office last month