For 23 years, Kenosha County Sheriff’s Corporal Christopher Basina put on his uniform and badge, #1405. He supervised corrections officers. He went to work, most recently at the Kenosha County Detention Center, working at times 12 hours or more. During the Covid-19 pandemic, there were several surges in the Kenosha Jails. Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth didn’t like talking about it and did his best to make sure the public was unaware. At the same time as one such surge, the Racine County Sheriff touted his jails as being covid-free. Unfortunately, Corporal Basina passed away on October 8, 2021 due to complications from Covid-19. According to legal documents (usually a precursor to a lawsuit) filed by an attorney representing Basina’s widow, his wife hasn’t been given benefits that her family is entitled to. Cheryl and Christopher had just celebrated their 29th wedding anniversary days before his death.
Late last year, among Basina’s duties at the jail were administration, roll call, making rounds to the dorms, and administering nasal swabs to inmates to test for Covid-19. He was often toe to toe with sick inmates. He wore an KN95 mask, but the inmates were not required to wear masks. He worked on Sept. 10th, 11th, 12th, 15th and 16th, got sick on Sept. 19th, and tested positive the next day. Basina’s primary care physician, Dr. Roman Pyasta concluded that Basina died of Covid-19 as a result of workplace exposure. Kenosha County government, by way of it’s worker’s compensation plan, declared that Basina’s death was not “in the line of duty.” This classification would have allowed Cheryl Basina, the Corporal’s widow, to receive health insurance continuation, monetary death benefits, and burial expenses. Wis. Stat. §66.0137 compels agencies to pay for these benefits. This law applies to police officers, correctional officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel. There is also a federal law called “Protecting America’s First Responders Act of 2020” (P.L. 116-157). This law also ensures benefits to first-responders that pass away due to Covid-19.
KCE spoke to Cheryl Basina’s attorney, Kevin Martin of Martin Law Office, S.C. in Oak Creak, WI. He told us that the county hired an infectious disease expert to give an opinion. This expert asked Kenosha County to produce some information so that he could determine whether or not it was likely that Basina contracted Covid-19 in the jail. The County refused to turn over this information so the expert told the County that he couldn’t make a determination without this information. The County then denied the benefits. Attorney Martin told KCE that the Kenosha County Sheriff, David Beth (D) and Kenosha County Executive, Jim Kreuser (D) both have the authority under Wisconsin law to declare Basina’s death as occurring in the line of duty but both have not done so.
KCE spoke to Cheryl Basina who told us “Sheriff David Beth also stated to me and my children at Christopher’s funeral that if there was anything that we needed that he would take care of us, ‘anything’. Several weeks later I spoke to Sheriff Beth on the phone asking if Christopher would be classified as dying in the line of duty he stated that he was not able to make that decision.”
We reached out to Kreuser and Beth and neither of them wished to comment. We also reached out to the chairmen of the two county board committees that have oversight – Jeff Gentz and Boyd Frederick. Gentz didn’t respond and Frederick told KCE that he will talk about this issue at a future meeting “if he is allowed to.”
The county board can also, by way of a vote, declare Basina’s death as “in the line of duty.”
KCE reached out to the entire County Board for comment. Supervisor Zach Rodriguez, who had already taken notice of this issue, told us that he has drafted a resolution declaring Corporal Basina’s death as being “in the line of duty.”
“My deepest condolences to Mrs. Basina and the rest of the Basina family. Kenosha County is grateful for Corporal Basina’s 23 years of dedicated service to the citizens of Kenosha County. In the coming days I will be introducing a resolution that, if passed will make sure the Bassina family receives the benefits due to them. I hope all of my colleagues will support this important measure.”