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Ira Silverstein coverage roundup

Friday, Jan 26, 2018

* AP

The inspector general for the Illinois General Assembly says a top state senator did not sexually harass a woman whose legislation he was sponsoring last year.

Inspector General Julie Porter concludes in a report that Sen. Ira Silverstein’s interaction with Denise Rotheimer did not rise to the level of ethical misconduct. But she says it was “conduct unbecoming of a legislator” and recommended the 19-year veteran lawmaker be counseled by the Senate’s ethics officer.

* CBS 2

Rotheimer helped author a 2011 law to increase penalties for violent sex offenders. She said she was working with Silverstein to pass legislation to help crime victims get free legal representation during ongoing criminal cases, when the senator killed the bill because he thought she had a boyfriend.

“Once I explained to him I don’t have a boyfriend, my bill came back alive,” Rotheimer said at the hearing.

* NBC 5

Contacted Thursday, Rotheimer said she was “livid” over the ruling and fears it will discourage others from lodging complaints against lawmakers.

“For her (Porter) to victim-blame and to say I was flirting with him, that shows that the whole system is corrupt,” Rotheimer said. “The process is worse than the abuse because now I’m being blamed.” […]

Porter said Silverstein’s conduct could only be defined as sexual harassment if it created “an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.”

She also found evidence that Silverstein continued to push the legislation even after it was clear there was little support for passage. Rotheimer said that’s why, recognizing there was no employer-employee relationship with Silverstein, she filed an “abuse of power” charge with the Legislative Ethics Commission, not a sexual harassment complaint.

Porter noted two instances when Silverstein teased Rotheimer that he would drop sponsorship of the bill. The context of the conversations was lighthearted, but even the appearance that a lawmaker’s opinion of legislation could be based on his relationship with the advocate “has harmed the public’s trust in the General Assembly,” she wrote.

* Sun-Times

[Inspector General Julie Porter] also noted many of the messages were “flirtatious,” although none were “sexually explicit and there was never any express discussion in the messages about cultivating a romantic relationship.”

And she did not conclude that Silverstein “killed” the bill.

“If anything, it appears that Silverstein — like Rotheimer — was misguided or naive about whether the bill could actually succeed as proposed. He kept going and going because he wanted to help, please and placate Rotheimer,” she wrote.

In explaining why she considered Silverstein’s conduct “unbecoming” of a legislator, Porter writes that “he did not maintain an appropriate professional distance from the proponent of a bill he was sponsoring.”

She writes that Silverstein “should have been much more cautious and conscientious about engaging in these types of teasing and flirtatious communications with someone he knew was depending on him to advance legislation.”

“Legislators are public servants, held to a higher standard,” Porter wrote. “Even the appearance — which Silverstein himself created — that Silverstein felt enamored with a bill proponent and may have used his office to advance or impede legislation as a result is problematic and warrants my finding.”

* From the Illinois Policy Institute’s former news network

Attorney Les Alderman, who has handled harassment cases in Washington, D.C., said Porter’s report will have consequences.

“Here you have this inspector general airing all of this dirty laundry and declaring it to mean nothing, and to amount to no violation of the law,” Alderman said. “That will have a chilling effect on the victims who will decide that they don’t need to go through the same process and get the same result.”

Alderman said accusers should take their cases to court. Rotheimer said she’s evaluating her options and that the process is rigged in lawmakers’ favor.

Illinois state Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Raymond, said the legislature’s harassment task force is evaluating how other inspectors general investigate cases in other agencies and other states.

* Tribune

Becky Carroll, a political consultant and one of the women behind the open letter last fall, said she did not think the inspector general’s finding would discourage women from coming forward.

“Women and our allies are united more than ever around this issue, and this movement is too strong a force to be deterred by any single incident of this nature,” Carroll said. “There’s no going back.”

Carroll said she could understand why Rotheimer was dissatisfied with the process, saying state government needs a “clear, consistent and fair process in place so everyone who comes forward has confidence that their complaints will be taken seriously and addressed accordingly.”

Lawmakers have formed two task forces to try to address the larger issues of sexual harassment and sexual discrimination in Springfield.

* WLS Radio

Silverstein didn’t want to answer any of my questions about the finding, but he did say “I am very grateful that we have an independent inspector general who saw the facts for what they were. My priorities are now my family and my re-election.”

But Silverstein’s two more impediments to his re-election: He’s currently 45 signatures short on his petition to get on the March 20th ballot and even if he does get on the ballot he’s got a primary challenger.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Anon2018 - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 3:50 am:

    There is so much more going on here in this saga than most realize. It is tragedy inside of tragedy. Sorry Rich and with all due repspect, IMO this round up seems a bit one sided and intent on conveying a particular view.

    Silverstein did indeed display tremendous poor judgement in engaging in flirtation as he did. That is clear. He also needs to go because of it.

    They were however friends and she got back at him when the bill did not work out. Silverstein did very much push the bill. That’s abundantly clear. Why? It’s in the record.

    Every time an interview is done, a story is written, testimony made, we bandy this back and forth, we are feeding something that shouldn’t be fed.

    Btw damn you Proft and the rest of your opportunistic jackals. Burn in hell.

  2. - hisgirlfriday - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 7:47 am:

    If anybody is chilling other women from coming forward, it is Denise Rotheimer.

    Julie Porter investigated this matter, made a fair and impartial decision based on the evidence.

    Rotheimer didn’t like what the results of that investigation were and dragged Julie Porter and her process through the mud in her comments to the media calling the whole thing rigged.

    When Julie Porter releases the findings to the public to show the process wasn’t rigged, Denise Rotheimer complains about that too as being unfair to her and Julie Porter gets accused of chilling victims. Apparently Julie Porter can’t win.

    I think Silverstein’s conduct was gross and inappropriate and I hope he doesn’t get elected.

    The way Rotheimer has handled things though I am glad she’s not going to be in the GA either.

    I think it’s a big deal that Silverstein was found guilty of conduct unbecoming of a legislator. But Denise Rotheimer’s antics are stepping all over that objective conclusion about Silverstein.

  3. - Sideline Watcher - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 8:04 am:

    Yes to Anon2018 and hisgirlfriday…I was just about to type that the one person chilling women coming forward is Denise Rotheimer.

    When I first read the email exchange it seemed fishy. Then when she stood next to Jeanne Ives and further politicized her perceived slights I thought that was a step too far if she really wanted to be taken seriously. Now I’m curious about how many other people this woman has threatened. Something is off here and its these types of situations that we need to think through. Believing women, and taking their stories seriously is incredibly important but we can’t act like there aren’t people with ulterior motives, especially in the political world.

    And for the record I agree that Silverstein’s exchanges were cringe worthy and unbecoming and incredibly stupid for a lot of reasons. But I never saw any evidence in Miss Rotheimers’s own words that it was unwanted or that Silverstein was engaged in actively trying to trade this secret banter with his willingness to push her issue.

  4. - Colin O'Scopey - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 8:34 am:

    Ms. Rotheimer claims she has “other stuff” to implicate Sen. Silverstein. If she has any compelling evidence to bolster her case, she would have dropped it like it was hot.

  5. - Olivia Pope - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 8:51 am:

    This drama is overrated. A complaint was filed, investigated by a very qualified third party attorney and unfortunately people are unhappy with the outcome. When I read about this situation, I think of the revenge porn legislation that became law. But, back to this drama.

    Was the complaint that was filed with the LIG that Silverstein used his position to kill “her” bill when he thought Rotheimer had a boyfriend? If SO, then that IS WHAT the LIG investigated and all of this other drama that we watch play out since victim went public. Did Silverstein use his position to kill the bill (a bill that had opposition & problems) bc he thought the advocate had a boyfriend? Look at the witnesses that were interviewed and their statements.

    In addition, let’s not forget the LIG, is a former federal prosecutor with an impressive background and is a FEMALE. Everyone was unhappy that the LIG position was empty, but now have no problem criticizing the LIG’s first investigative summary. Let’s look at this coverage from the LIG report:

    Porter, who interviewed 20 witnesses as part of her investigation into Rotheimer’s complaint, stressed that she took Rotheimer’s perspective on the tone of the Facebook interactions “seriously.” But Porter also noted that Rotheimer appeared to be a willing participant in many of the messaging sessions spanning hundreds of printed pages over 17 months.

    “In the communications available to me,” Porter wrote, “there are dozens of instances where Rotheimer initiates, prolongs and deepens the intimacy of the discussions. She repeatedly compliments and flirts with Silverstein (e.g., ‘You’re cute,’ ‘You’re funny,’ ‘You always make me smile,’ ‘I like it when you are you and not a politician’). If one looks at the messages from Silverstein’s perspective, she was as interested in friendly conversation as he was, and she encouraged such exchanges to continue.”

    After the LIG did not find evidence to support the claim Rotheimer, is upset and continues the “revenge/ I’ll show you” campaign.

    Here is my advice to everyone reading this comment: Take a close look in the mirror before the pot starts calling the kettle black. Remember there is a fine line between free speech and slander, so always stick to the facts.

  6. - Jocko - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 9:05 am:

    While I think that Ira got “Aziz Ansari-ed”, he had no business (as a legislator and married man) engaging in that type of banter with Denise.

  7. - Anonymous - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 9:20 am:

    Speaking of Proft, he had some eyebrow-raising things to say about the Aziz Ansari matter and the metoo# movement on Chicago Tonight.

  8. - m - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 9:21 am:

    I think it’s becoming clear that Ms. Roetheimer doesn’t need another case, complaint, or legal action. She needs to seek self reflection and probably some type of therapy. I would not wish for her life or her experiences, I feel bad for her. But her current path is not healthy for her nor the #metoo cause.

  9. - Anonymous - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 9:47 am:

    There were two possible outcomes: Silverstein was guilty and the penalty is that Rotheimers bill becomes law as is, or anything else, which would be unacceptable to Rotheimer. This may be a good case for making political hay with, but it’s not a good example of #metoo.

  10. - Anonymous - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 10:39 am:

    Her next move, Supreme Court (E.P.). Whatever merit or credibility she had, she has ferociously chewed it up by her grandstanding ineptitude. Go sit down, Ma’am.

  11. - Shytown - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 10:55 am:

    Rotheimer may not have been the perfect example of the sexual harassment problem in springfield politics, but if anyone thinks that the process as currently set up is fair, I’ve got a time machine parked outside I’d like to sell to you.

  12. - Langhorne - Friday, Jan 26, 18 @ 11:29 am:

    I am sorry for all that rotheimer has gone thru w this. But i think her attitude now is different from what it may have been over the months of texting. For me, the most telling line is, “…Rotheimer initiates, prolongs and deepens the intimacy of the discussions.”

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