Lester: Some problems at Elgin Mental Health Center linger

The Elgin Mental Health Center stepped up security after a patient who was being held under court order escaped in 2014, but problems remain at the state-operated facility, an audit has found.

The Aug. 31 report from Illinois Auditor General Frank Mautino came at the behest of the Illinois House after the patient escaped July 16, 2014, while being transported to the Lake County courthouse in Waukegan for a hearing on aggravated battery charges.

The patient, a prisoner who had been declared unfit to stand trial by a judge, slipped a handcuff off his wrist and jumped out of the back door of a mental health center van while it was stopped at a gas station. He was found eight hours later.

<h3 class="leadin">Locks and seating

Before the 2014 escape, the mental health center had "few procedures with few specific instructions" for handling a prisoner during transport, the auditors found. Passengers' doors could be unlocked from the inside, vans lacked security partitions between passengers and drivers and employees weren't properly trained, the audit says.

Now, door locks on the inside of vans must be disabled during a journey and security officers are required to sit behind patients during the trip. Authorization is required for any stops, like getting gas.

Despite that, the audit found patients aren't always being seated in front of security officers and officers aren't always receiving proper training. In a response to the report, the mental health center agreed with the findings and pledged to make changes in the months to come.

The audit comes at a key time - as news broke Friday that the state plans to move up to 44 prisoners needing significant mental health care to the Mental Health Center in the coming months.

<h3 class="leadin">Rauner jumps into 27th

After initially staying out of the process of selecting a replacement for departing GOP state Sen. Matt Murphy, the governor's office and its allies have jumped into the fray. They held interviews for the six candidates Friday in Chicago. Among those questioning the candidates were the governor, chief political strategist Mike Zolnierowicz, John Tillman of the Illinois Policy Institute and Senate GOP Leader Christine Radogno.

Local party leaders are scheduled to meet on Thursday to formally select a replacement. Palatine Township Republican Committeeman Aaron Del Mar of Palatine, state Rep. David Harris of Arlington Heights, state Rep. Tom Morrison of Palatine, Palatine Township Supervisor Sharon Langlotz-Johnson, Arlington Heights Trustee Joe Farwell and Rolling Meadows Mayor Tom Rooney are seeking the appointment.

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Departing Illinois state Sen. Matt Murphy, a Palatine Republican Associated Press File Photo

Murphy's new job

What led Murphy, of Palatine, to leave the legislature and take a post at Mac Strategies Group, a public affairs firm headed by Des Plaines native Ryan McLaughlin?

McLaughlin tells me he'd been thinking for some time about expanding the firm and describes a longtime friendship with Murphy. "I mentioned my interest in taking my firm to the next level by offering a lobbying practice beyond our communications and public affairs services and he mentioned his growing obligations to his family," McLaughlin says. "As we talked more, it made all the sense in the world to join forces. It's a natural and perfect fit."

Murphy previously has said that with four children, two of them in college, he needed more income than his $84,000 state pay ­- $67,000 base pay plus leadership stipends, with paychecks sometimes delayed by the state's budget impasse. Mac Strategies has not disclosed Murphy's new pay.

McLaughlin says Murphy will work as a legislative and regulatory lobbyist with state and federal clients. He'll also provide advice on communications and public affairs strategies. Murphy's first day is Friday.

<h3 class="leadin">Take a ride

Owners of Glueckert Funeral Home in Arlington Heights say they still have spots for Wednesday's free luxury bus trip to Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood. The trip includes a guided tour with a cemetery official and a presentation on veterans' benefits and cost-saving options, plus a boxed lunch. For more information, call Jackie Glueckert at (847) 253-0168.

<h3 class="leadin">Terribly sad

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention how saddened I was this weekend to hear of the passing of Roosevelt University Professor Paul Green, director of the school's Insitute of Politics, and so much more. Green died unexpectedly Saturday at the age of 73. So much of his work - from his papers on redistricting to his work at the City Club of Chicago - was both unique and thought provoking. He'll be missed.

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