County sued over Oak Hill firing

Susan Nordhaus, former director of nursing at Oak Hill, the county-owned senior living facility in Waterloo, has filed suit against Monroe County after the county board voted to terminate her employment in early October. 

The complaint alleges that Nordhaus was retaliated against – eventually in the form of termination – for reporting what she believed to be fraudulent activity and for refusing to participate or aid in such activity. 

The alleged fraud pertained to Medicaid, Medicare and TRICARE reimbursement materials and other required documentation.

In the complaint, Nordhaus states that in reporting such activity, she was protected by Illinois public policy, the state’s Whistleblower Act and the whistleblower protection provision of the Nursing Home Care Act. 

Three counts are illustrated in the filing, each one corresponding to the legislation Nordhaus believes Monroe County violated. 

The first count claims the county violated Illinois public policy by terminating Nordhaus’ employment after she “engaged in protected activity” by reporting alleged fraud by Oak Hill.

The second count alleges a violation of the Illinois Whistleblower Act. This count states Nordhaus “refused to assist, participate, certify, or otherwise authorize the submission of fraudulent (reimbursement information)” on Sept. 10, 2021, after which her employment was suspended and ultimately terminated.

It also claimed she was threatened with public humiliation and that the Monroe County Board of Commissioners and Monroe County State’s Attorney Lucas Liefer prevented her from reporting this alleged fraudulent activity.

In the third count, the filing alleges Nordhaus’ reporting or threatened reporting of the suspected fraudulent activity was a factor in her termination from Oak Hill. 

In the filing, Nordhaus seeks multiple forms of  compensation as judgement, including back pay, reinstatement, compensation for lost benefits, damages for emotional distress and humiliation and more. 

The three counts were filed in the Monroe County Circuit Court at the end of March before being moved to U.S. District Court – Southern Illinois District Court. 

Judge Staci M. Yakel has been assigned the case. 

In late September, former Oak Hill administrator Brian Koontz resigned from his position. Liefer confirmed then that Nordhaus was on leave at the time of Koontz’s resignation and that he resigned after being placed on administrative leave. 

Unlike Koontz, Nordhaus did not resign. Nordhaus’ employment was terminated in early October, a little over a week after Koontz resigned. 

Just before action by the county commissioners to accept Koontz’s resignation in September, Nordhaus addressed the board during the public comment portion of that meeting. 

“What was the first day the commissioners learned that an employee tested positive for meth? Who informed the commissioners that the employee tested positive for meth? Isn’t it true I reported suspected Medicare fraud on the date of Friday, Sept. 10, 2021? Isn’t it true the commissioners were informed of my report of Medicare fraud in the afternoon of Friday, Sept. 10, 2021? What has the county done to investigate my report of Medicare fraud? No answers,” she said.

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