* From an e-mail…
I have mentioned that I want to publicize the process that I am going through on my [sexual harassment] complaint against [Sen. Ira Silverstein]. Therefore, I have forwarded you the email I sent the legislative inspector general, Julie Porter addressing my concerns about the process as she explained it to me during our 2-1/2 hour meeting on Tuesday, November 21, 2017. I am requesting a meeting with the 4 leaders who appointed her and the 8 members on the legislative ethics commission to meet my request for full participation and transparency in this process.
I hope that you can expose the process in order to achieve the necessary reforms that will give others some sense of confidence to file their complaints. As you know, not one of the 300 has yet to come forward with a name even after the legislators filled the vacancy, established a hotline, created a task force and prohibited sexual harassment. My letter to Ms. Porter addresses the real issues that I believe are keeping the others silent and continues to silence me in this process.
All my best, Denise Rotheimer
* Rotheimer’s letter to the interim Legislative Inspector General…
Dear Ms. Porter,
I want to make a few observations about my experience with the process that entails my complaint that I filed one year ago and how it compares to my experience in other situations including the criminal legal system and the EEOC.
After my daughter reported the rape to law enforcement which was one year after the incident occurred the detective who interviewed her separate from me, met with me afterward and said, Michael could get at least 15 years then he explained the definition of legal penetration concerning minors under 13 years old. The detective also told me that the reason why he thought the rapist could get a longer sentence than the other sentences that are handed down for this offense is because of how well my daughter articulated the details of the incident. She had no other “evidence” than her testimony and no “witnesses” to offer the detective during her interview. And she was not faulted for reporting a year later.
When we met with the prosecutor she informed me of the sentence she felt the rapist should get and asked me if I believed in second chances that’s when she said he could get 3 years no jail time so he could get therapy. I refused and said the detective said he could get 15 years and asked if I could hire a lawyer for Jasmine. The prosecutor failed to inform me of our rights as crime victims and mislead me about hiring an attorney and said I could only hire a lawyer if I wanted to sue the rapist for money. So I never hired a lawyer but later learned I could hire a lawyer to represent my daughter in the criminal case as though she was a named party which had nothing to do with suing the rapist for money. I was mislead! That is why I made a law to provide crime victims with information on their rights and compensation at the onset of the criminal legal process within 48 hours of notifying law enforcement of a crime. So they would not be uniformed and misled.
The point I am making about this process and the comparison I want to make with the ethics violation process is that:
1) I knew what the charges were and what the penalties were regarding those violations.
2) I also knew when the court date was and was prepared to hear what the rapist had to say in front of the judge as well as hear what my daughter would have to say. Both would have a voice–so I believed.
The judge ended up sentencing the rapist to 7-1/2 years even though my daughter was not present in court and I did have the opportunity to speak and object to the 6 year plea deal that the prosecutor offered but the judge agreed with me and gave him a year and one half longer sentence in prison.
With the EEOC I received a Right to Sue letter after I filed my complaint about the manager at MetLife who mocked a rape victim on a rape date drug. I offered to hold off on pursuing litigation if the managing director who was over the offending manager was removed because he did not take the sexual harassment seriously by setting the example for the other employees in the office who continued to make sex jokes and treat the training as nuisance. When the managing director was removed I held my end of the agreement and never acted on litigation. I was fired shortly thereafter because I did not make my quota within the six months I was required and even though I was unable to focus on my sales due to the emotional strain of dealing with the sexual harassment culture in the office I maintained my end of the agreement by not suing MetLife. After my experience with MetLife I didn’t care about the job, my goal was to rid the culture that I had experience within the short time I was there as an insurance agent. And because corporate removed the head manager I felt I had accomplished my goal and moved on.
With this ethics process I am not satisfied that I will not know what specific violations will be looked at or that I have no expectation of having a voice beyond my interview with you. In other words, the legislative ethics commission only hears from you, not me–and I won’t know anything beyond what I tell you which is not how it works in any other process that I am aware of when someone files a complaint. This process completely shuts out the complainant and silences the complainant and does not inform or notify the complainant of what violations are considered, potential punishment or consequences of said violations or a process to have a hearing on the accusation in front of the deciding body–the decision makers. I don’t get to hear “his” side, what is presented in an open forum such as a court about his defenses and I don’t get to rebut his defenses.
My understanding of how this process works is that A) I file a complaint and B) if by chance the office is not vacant the legislative inspector general investigates. Then C) I may or may never hear from the LIG, there are no procedures in place that provides complainants notification or information on the status of the complaint. D) If I do meet the LIG which I have done, then the LIG explains to me that I will not be informed of which witnesses of mine will be contacted, if any, what was said and how the conversations with the witnesses including my self is aiding the investigation to move forward and on what terms. E) what is the LIG looking for? F) What ethics violations are being questioned for an investigation? These questions are not going to be answered for me. Instead they will become part of the report and recommendations of the LIG that is presented to the LEC at which time I am completely absent. I never get to speak with the commissioners, or get to answer any of the questions that they might have, I never get to hear the report or recommendations that will be presented to the commissioners–so I am completely forgotten and excluded in this process and shut out from knowing anything or from having an ability to state facts as I did with the judge when I objected to the plea deal in the rapist’s case because the prosecutor offered a plea deal that was not appropriate which the judge agreed with me.
Why does this process completely deny me a voice? This is my complaint and I should have an ability to know which of my witnesses are contacted and the outcome of those conversations. I should also know the position of the accused when presented with the “charges” and evidence and how he pleads. If we were in open court I would hear how his attorney defends him against the evidence that is presented and any allegations he makes against me, if any. But most importantly I would have a voice in front of the judge–the determining body, decision maker and hear her reasons for the outcome after becoming informed of both sides and knowing that all the evidence was presented and witnesses were interviewed. What reason do I have to believe or trust that the four democrats and four republicans who sit on the LEC will base their decision on the merits of my complaint when I don’t even know what information you are going to summarize and extract from our conversations and the documents I provide you will be? Why don’t I get to know any of this? And why am I not privy to participate in the full process?
I would like this letter sent to the four leaders of both houses who appointed you and the eight commissioners to set a meeting with me so I can get the answers to these questions.
All my best, Denise Rotheimer
* From the Illinois Policy Institute’s radio network…
Employment lawyer Paula Brantner, senior adviser with the nonprofit Workplace Fairness, wouldn’t suggest a victim of harassment use the process lawmakers put in place to report misconduct, even in light of Madigan’s new law.
“This is not a process that I would recommend going through unless they had no other choice,” Brantner said. “I don’t think anyone could look at this system and feel like this was a system that would protect them if they made a complaint.”
Both Brantner and Rotheimer point to the involvement of the Legislative Ethics Commission, a committee of four Republican and four Democrat lawmakers, as the biggest reason for skepticism of the General Assembly’s changes.
The commission has the final say on whether a complaint investigated by the inspector general should be made public. A four-four split on party lines means the complaint never sees the light of day.
“It puts the fox in charge of the henhouse,” Brantner said. “What incentive would any legislator have for these complaints to move forward when they could be on the chopping block next?”