Workers comp claim filed in mayor's death

Friday, March 15, 2002

PINCKNEYVILLE, Ill. -- The widow of the mayor of this coal-mining town has filed a workers compensation claim against it, charging that job-related stress drove her husband to suicide.

Lois Heisner said Thursday her late husband was "on top of the world" when Gov. George Ryan visited here in June to sign a package of incentives for the state's coal industry.

But Kirwan Heisner put a gun to his head three months later and committed suicide, and Lois Heisner says his job as mayor was the cause.

Lois Heisner is asking to be paid two-thirds of her late husband's weekly salary, or $658 a week up to $250,000, until she dies or remarries.

"When the governor was here, everything was wonderful," Lois Heisner, 50, said. "But he hit rock-bottom soon after that."

Lois Heisner, who is also running for Perry County treasurer, said one incident in particular depressed her husband so much that he never recovered.

Heisner, a retired coal miner, bought some land in August on behalf of the city without a vote by the city council authorizing the purchase.

The local newspaper, the Pinckneyville Democrat, ran articles that criticized the move. Lois Heisner said those articles distressed her husband and made him talk of suicide.

"I lived with the man, I know what upset him," she said.

The city was responsible because the newspaper probably obtained information for the articles from city employees, she said.

Allegations disputed

A workers compensation adjuster for Pinckneyville said the city disagrees with Lois Heisner's allegations.

"We are disputing the claim," said Mike Johnson. "The position of my company is that the suicide did not arise due to his employment."

Heisner, who was 63, was a popular two-term mayor who helped lobby lawmakers last year to pass a package of low-interest loans, tax breaks and other incentives aimed at luring coal-burning power companies to Illinois.

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