Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner on Tuesday denied his administration’s interest in a fatal Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Flint, Mich., had anything to do with being held to account for a similarly deadly outbreak at the Quincy veterans’ home.
WBEZ reported Tuesday on state emails from early 2016 that showed Rauner aides sharing news articles about a dozen Legionnaires’ deaths in Flint and how government officials there failed to properly communicate the presence of the illness to residents. A detailed chronology of the Flint crisis also was prepared for the governor.
That research coincided with four families preparing to sue the state over negligence associated with the Quincy outbreak in 2015 that killed 12 people — the same number who died of Legionnaires’ from Flint’s tainted water supply.
The Republican governor explained Tuesday that his staff’s interest in Flint was merely a matter of “good government” and insisted no parallels exist between his administration’s handling of the Quincy outbreak in 2015 and what happened in Flint.
“I don’t think there’s any particular correlation,” Rauner said.
“I can say that our team is studying what happens in other states and other communities all the time. I know we’ve had extensive reviews of what’s happened in Flint in our administration. Every government in America should be, and I think is, studying Flint to understand what happened, lessons learned, procedures, policies,” he said. “That’s just good government and good practice.”
The Michigan state health director is standing trial on involuntary manslaughter and misconduct charges for improperly notifying Flint residents about Legionnaires’.
While no one has been charged in Illinois, similarities do exist between Flint and Quincy.
Rauner’s administration has come under fire for waiting six days in 2015 between confirming a Legionnaires’ outbreak and notifying the public, a delay in which the governor’s office played a role. There were also later delays in disclosing Legionnaires’ at the home.
Democratic Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is probing Rauner’s administration for its handling of the Quincy outbreak in 2015 along with later outbreaks, which WBEZ began investigating last December. All told, 14 deaths were linked to Legionnaires’, and nearly 70 residents and staff were sickened through last May.
Rauner has dismissed the investigation as politically motivated, ahead of his tough Nov. 6 re-election fight against Democrat JB Pritzker.
Dave McKinney covers state government and politics for WBEZ. Follow him @davemckinney.
In the interest of transparency, Chicago Public Media (CPM) reminds its audience that we receive philanthropic support from The Pritzker Foundation. JB Pritzker, who is a candidate for Illinois governor, is not involved in The Pritzker Foundation and does not contribute to it. He and his wife lead a separate philanthropic foundation, the Pritzker Family Foundation, from which CPM has never received any funding.