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New sexual harassment laws derided as toothless

Monday, Nov 20, 2017

* 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.”

* Related…

* 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.”

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - PublicServant - Monday, Nov 20, 17 @ 11:12 am:

    ===That’s why Rauner called for “meaningful reform” to ensure the legislative inspector general “has robust and independent investigatory and enforcement power.”===

    And can be purchased to go after one’s political enemies…Rauner, following the Trump playbook.

  2. - A guy - Monday, Nov 20, 17 @ 11:26 am:

    Nothing has been anywhere near as effective as…naming names. Protecting someone in your own party is dangerous once the “naming” has occurred. All the rest of this can be helpful, but the solution is to find a way for victims to feel more confident in coming forward. This doesn’t do this yet.

  3. - trudat - Monday, Nov 20, 17 @ 11:27 am:

    Ms. Doubek might want to read the law. She wrote, “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.”

    The law gives the Inspector General wide discretion. It’s pretty clear in 5 ILCS 430/25-80: Sec. 25-80. Referrals of investigations. If the Legislative Inspector General determines that any alleged misconduct involves any person not subject to the jurisdiction of the Legislative Ethics Commission, the Legislative Inspector General shall refer the reported allegations to the appropriate ethics commission or other appropriate body. If the Legislative Inspector General determines that any alleged misconduct may give rise to criminal penalties, the Legislative Inspector General may refer the allegations regarding that misconduct to the appropriate law enforcement authority.

  4. - m - Monday, Nov 20, 17 @ 11:36 am:

    =Nothing has been anywhere near as effective as…naming names.=

    Yes. Victims can do what they want, but the fact that only one name has come forward shows that nothing has changed.
    When a sitting Senator tells a story of how she was harassed but refuses to name the perpetrator, you can see clearly that no one feels safe to come forward.

  5. - Phil King - Monday, Nov 20, 17 @ 11:40 am:

    Legislatures are self-policing bodies, except for election time. There’s always problems inherent with that but it’s the best system we have. You can’t give someone else power over the legislature or they can use that position to influence legislation.

    The best and only way to combat sexual harassment in politics is to publicly shame harassers and beat them at the ballot box.

  6. - Arthur Andersen - Monday, Nov 20, 17 @ 11:44 am:

    trudat, not exactly. The second sentence of your citation appears to relate to the first, specifically “persons not subject to the jurisdiction of the Legislative Ethics Commission.”

    Nice try, though.

  7. - Loop Lady - Monday, Nov 20, 17 @ 11:53 am:

    Knee jerk legislation…despite the fact that Ira has been named, there are surely many more who could be named with more egregious actions…there is very little will in Springfield to aggressively pursue this issue…

  8. - Black Ivy - Monday, Nov 20, 17 @ 12:00 pm:

    No matter how you spin this, Governor Rauner and Senator Barickman are right to call for meaningful reform in expanding the Legislative Inspector General’s authority and ability to freely conduct investigations. In the legislature, policing the police has not worked!

  9. - Emily Miller - Monday, Nov 20, 17 @ 12:05 pm:

    While i understand what A Guy is saying, the solution can not end at women feeling able to come forward, though that is a fine goal. Men can and should feel more confident in this. They should come forward when they realize they’ve been perpetrators, they can step in and stop harassment when they see it happening, and, most importantly, they can choose to stop harassing. It’s those choices— the choices men make— that will actually end more harassment. Women cannot end their oppression by speaking up about about being oppressed. There can be consequences clearly laid out for perpetrators who are named by women, but ultimately the solution lies with men.

  10. - anon2 - Monday, Nov 20, 17 @ 12:09 pm:

    =Nothing has been anywhere near as effective as…naming names.=

    I have no problem in naming names — when and if accusations are confirmed by the IG as ethics violations. If the accused is named before the investigation, however, then some innocent people will have their reputations injured, since some accusations will be unproven or unfounded. Much of the public assumes pols are all guilty anyway.

  11. - Sigh - Monday, Nov 20, 17 @ 12:17 pm:

    -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.-
    The Inspector General is independent and can be an effective investigator and only forwards FOUNDED complaints the the Ethics Commission. They also have the ability to forward complaints to law enforcement. The Commission has no role during the investigation.

    I suggest legislators read the Ethics Act, before doing a knee jerk reaction or issuing a statement for a press pop. {sigh}

    Also. Maybe the newly appointed LIG can address some of the statement that have previously been made. She is unable to confirm or deny an complaint/investigation, but the OEIG issues an annual report showing what topic of the complaint was. Therefore, can the newly appoint LIG tell the public if all 27 pending reports were sexual harassment complaints against legislators as previously reported, or break down the number of reports by complaint topic?

  12. - Anonymous - Monday, Nov 20, 17 @ 12:53 pm:

    “Throw something out there quick, make it look real, then with the built in flaws, we’ll be back to square one. Which is where we want to be, right guys?”
    Without a process with teeth (which is also fair), there will be women still unwilling to make the move. Soon, things will die down in the press, and back to Lechers Holiday.

  13. - Anonymous - Monday, Nov 20, 17 @ 1:21 pm:

    I look forward to all of these people testifying before the task force created by HJR 687.

  14. - Whatever - Monday, Nov 20, 17 @ 2:04 pm:

    Hate to disagree with Arthur Andersen, but I believe trudat’s post at 11:27 is correct. The section requires the IG to refer cases over which he or she has not jurisdiction to the body that does have jurisdiction, and allows the IG to refer any case for prosecution if he or she suspects criminal activity. If the second sentence only applied when the IG had no jurisdiction, it should say so or be made part of the first sentence.

  15. - Collect Call from Rod - Monday, Nov 20, 17 @ 3:10 pm:

    If McConnaughy was the subject of a complaint, then she might think different about the Ethics Act protecting the accused. She should be thankful every day that she was not appointed Secretary of Transportation. OEIG loves IDOT.

  16. - Sigh - Monday, Nov 20, 17 @ 3:33 pm:

    Barickman’s letter that is referenced in post states: “The Operational Rules of the Legislative Ethics Commission, as amended and effective April 16, 2008 (the “Rules”) state that allegations shall not be investigated by the office of the LIG” without the advance approval of the Commission…” (Rule 17-25).”

    Doesn’t Rule 17-25 read: The Legislative Inspector General shall not investigate matters that are beyond the scope of, or are unrelated to, the INITIAL COMPLAINT upon which the investigation was FOUNDED, without the advance approval of the Commission….

  17. - this guy - Monday, Nov 20, 17 @ 3:55 pm:

    ==- Arthur Andersen - Monday, Nov 20, 17 @ 11:44 am:

    trudat, not exactly. The second sentence of your citation appears to relate to the first, specifically “persons not subject to the jurisdiction of the Legislative Ethics Commission.”==

    Sorry, you’re wrong. Might want to read it again with the rules of statutory construction in mind. They are two separate sentences covering two different scenarios. The first concerns those not under the jurisdiction - that those acts must be referred to the correct inspector general. The second gives the Inspector General authority to refer ANYTHING that may be criminal in nature to law enforcement - it’s not tied to a only people under his/her jurisdiction or those outside his/her jurisdiction.

  18. - Arthur Andersen - Monday, Nov 20, 17 @ 6:27 pm:

    Whatever and this guy, I read this a few times and even read the entire statute before posting. Having said that, I think you folks are correct. My apologies. Not the clearest paragraph on the books, but I shoulda caught that.

  19. - Whatever - Monday, Nov 20, 17 @ 8:28 pm:

    Thanks, AA. Now all I need is a “bite me” from Mr. Miller himself, and I’ll have a hat trick.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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