* The Champaign News-Gazette is not impressed with the anti-sexual harassment legislation just signed into law…
The fact is that individuals, no matter their status, cannot police themselves because they don’t wish to police themselves.
They appoint the inspector general. The inspector general answers to a committee made up of the individuals she’s supposed to police and operates under the rules the people she’s supposed to police write. Even by Illinois standards, that makes no sense.
That’s why Rauner called for “meaningful reform” to ensure the legislative inspector general “has robust and independent investigatory and enforcement power.”
That should include clear prohibitions, not vague guidelines. Further, the penalties must have teeth, particularly in terms of public disclosure of alleged wrongdoing confirmed by an impartial investigation.
It’s a tricky business to penalize elected officials for misconduct that might fall short of that required for criminal prosecution. That’s why the public needs to be made aware of sleazy, unethical conduct so they can take it into consideration at the next election.
* And neither is Chuck Sweeny…
An additional problem that has yet to be fixed is the makeup of the legislative ethics commission. It has eight members, four Democrats and four Republicans, all of whom are sitting members of the General Assembly. See any potential problems with that? Me, too.
And so does state Sen. Tim Bivins, R-Dixon, a former member of the ethics commission when it was headed by Tom Homer, the last legislative inspector general. Homer resigned in December 2014. He wasn’t replaced until last week. Bivins says that at least 26 ethics complaints were not heard in the interim. One of those unheard complaints involved a sexual harassment allegation by a lobbyist against state Sen. Ira Silverstein, D-Chicago.
“Tom Homer was frustrated because he said the job lacked teeth,” Bivins said. Part of that lack of teeth could be due to the fact that four members of the commission can stop any action against a member of their party. There’s no neutral tiebreaker.
Bivins’ bill would reform the commission’s makeup so that sitting lawmakers cannot investigate their colleagues. It says that legislators and lobbyists cannot serve on the ethics commission for 10 years after they have left office or stopped lobbying. (Some ex-legislators become lobbyists.)
Bivins says his bill is “gaining some steam” in Springfield in the race to deal seriously not only with sexual harassment complaints but also with ethics complaints in general.
* And neither is Madeleine Doubek…
The legislative inspector general can’t suspend a lawmaker. She or he at least needs the power to both impose fines and censure lawmakers, Homer said.
More thorough statements of economic interest need to be created that detail how lawmakers make money from their other jobs and from investments so the public can judge whether they have conflicts when they vote or speak out about something.
Restrictions on IGs need to be lifted on what can be forwarded to a prosecutor for potential criminal action, along with how quickly it must be forwarded.
“I do not believe this statute was written with the accuser in mind,” McConnaughay said of the legislative inspector general laws. “To me, it’s written to protect the accused. It’s absurd.”
* Sen. Jason Barickman: I am concerned, however, that there are still many areas where our state ethics act falls woefully short and may, in fact, inhibit the ability of the Legislative Inspector General from being an effective investigator. The people of Illinois need to be able to have faith in their government and to be able to trust their elected officials. After reviewing the statute and the Legislative Ethics Commission (LEC) Rules, I have come up with a non-exclusive list of problems that should be considered by the General Assembly. I welcome your feedback on the issues I’ve outlined below, as well as any recommendations which you have for the Legislature to consider which will strengthen our ethical standards and practices.
* Rauner both signs and critiques sexual harassment legislation: Gov. Bruce Rauner on Thursday signed into law two measures targeting sexual harassment in Illinois politics, while also saying there’s far more work to do and dubbing one “hurried” and “very flawed.”