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Cassidy says LIG process “riddled with trap doors, blind alleys and loopholes”

Thursday, May 24, 2018

* From Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago)…

Tuesday, Speaker Madigan reversed course from his earlier denials over the concerns I raised about retaliation and requested an investigation by the Legislative Inspector General. While I applaud his openness to an inquiry, I continue to have very real concerns about the venue he’s selected.

The Office of Legislative Inspector General made headlines late last year after it was revealed that the position of LIG had remained vacant for 3 years, a situation many in the Capitol were completely unaware of, despite the early discussions about problems with harassment in our Capitol. During the time the office was vacant, several complaints piled up unaddressed and we had to pass emergency legislation to extend the statute of limitation on cases that had died of neglect during that time. Some members of the General Assembly, myself included, suggested that the statute empowering the LIG be overhauled at the same time to better equip a new LIG to truly operate independently, but the changes made were limited to the timeline extension at that time.

While the reasons for the lengthy vacancy in the office of Legislative Inspector General were never publicly reported, news reports at the time suggest that the issue related to a situation where the LIG found cause to launch an investigation and was denied permission to open an investigation by the partisan leadership appointees to the Legislative Ethics Commission. It bears repeating here - the Inspector General cannot proceed with an investigation unless a panel of members of the body they are charged with overseeing grants them the permission to do so. The flaws in the process don’t stop there though, it is riddled with trap doors, blind alleys and loopholes designed to allow political consideration to bury any complaint that is politically inconvenient. In addition to the lack of true independence in choosing whether to proceed to the investigative phase, other problems include:

    ◼ Neither the LIG nor the Ethics commission are required to publicly share any information about complaints, investigations, or findings by the LIG, which is the mechanism that allows the partisan nature of the Ethics Commission to keep facts from the public.
    ◼ The Legislative Ethics Commission, the group of General Assembly members appointed by legislative leadership (4 Democrats and 4 Republicans), has the power to reject any findings of an Inspector General.
    ◼ A simple majority vote is required to move an action forward and no provision exists for breaking the tie vote, so anything serious could die for the lack of one vote. As a result, party line voting on the commission all but guarantees no serious consequences exist.
    ◼ The minutes of the meetings of the Legislative Ethics Commission are not required to be publicly disclosed.

There are a couple of pieces of legislation moving through the Senate now, where members are working together in a bipartisan fashion to find workable solutions to the problems in both the Legislative Inspector General’s office and the Department of Human Rights. The proposed changes to the Ethics Act are simple and straightforward and I stand ready to support these changes when the bill comes over to the House.

The proposed changes to the Ethics Act, carried by Sens. Cristina Castro and Karen McConnaghy, include:

    ◼ Most importantly, the bill will remove the outrageous barrier to investigative independence by removing the provisions requiring the Legislative Inspector General to seek the permission of the Ethics Commission before opening an investigation. As mentioned above, Illinois is the ONLY state in the country with such a provision in their Ethics Act.
    ◼ The bill will bring desperately needed transparency and accountability to the Office and the Commission, requiring publication of case summaries in instances where a violation has been found as well as mandating public release of meeting minutes. A supermajority, which by the design of the Ethics Commission would require bipartisan cooperation, will be required to quash the release of any case summary.
    ◼ Critically important for restoring faith in the process, four members of the public would join the Ethics Commission.
    ◼ Ethics Commission members involved in cases would be required to recuse themselves and be temporarily replaced on the commission.
    ◼ Finally, the bill sets out a process for the timely replacement of the Legislative Inspector General in the case of a vacancy.

Each chamber has other pieces of legislation on the topic, but progress has been limited. Just as I suggested last fall when this all began, it would be ideal if we could have started this process with the creation of a bipartisan, bicameral task force seeking real solutions to improve the workplace we all share.

* Related…

* DemToo? GOP fans out to hang #MeToo around Democrats’ necks: But Collin Corbett, a Republican consultant working on several legislative races, says the focus makes perfect political sense. “You’re going to see this in every campaign. It’s going to be highlighted in every campaign, whether it’s for state Senate or state House, unless the Democratic candidate is willing to go out and oppose Mike Madigan, which none of them have the guts to do,” Corbett said. Corbett said the #metoo movement “goes to the heart of Democratic support.” “It goes to the heart of Democratic control of the state because they control the suburbs, and suburban women are the most important bloc in any statewide campaign,” Corbett said. “You’re not going to see this as much of a problem in Downstate races. You’ll see it front and center in the suburbs.”

* Sen Kwame Raoul: “I’ve worked with Representative Kelly Cassidy for many years as a trusted colleague and close personal friend. She has my full support, not just in sharing her story this week but for the critical work she is doing on the bipartisan Sexual Discrimination and Harassment Awareness and Prevention task force.
I know they are working hard to address these issues and understand they will be releasing legislative proposals in the coming days. Representative Cassidy and I agree that this issue should not be politicized. It is too important, not only in her case but for all women. As Attorney General, I look forward to building upon this panel’s work to change the culture and ensure that all citizens have access to support and justice.”

* Ethics board says it lacks jurisdiction to take up sexual harassment inquiry into Madigan ally: In addition to the ethics panel, Hampton also wrote to City Hall’s top watchdog in her request for a review. On Wednesday, Inspector General Joseph Ferguson signaled there’s little room left for his office to pursue the Hampton request. “The Board of Ethics is the adjudicator,” Ferguson said. “When a judge says there is no jurisdiction, that effectively ends the matter.

* Republican calls Madigan investigation conflict of interest: Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang (D- Skokie), one of Madigan’s most loyal allies, says McConnaughay’s argument seems politically motivated and illogical. “The purpose of the ethics commission is to externally take a look at what’s going on in our system, whether it be staff or members and so there would be an inherent conflict in any claim made under that test and I just don’t think that’s appropriate,” says Lang. Lang says the commission is assessing rules internally but welcomes legislative changes if need be.

* Two anti-sex harassment bills go to Rauner’s desk: House Bill 4242 would require local governments and school districts to make public within 72 hours the name of any employee accepting a severance payment due to being accused of sexual harassment within 72 hours, unless there is a confidentiality clause in that employee’s contract. HB 4243 prohibits state legislators from using public money to pay off victims of harassment to keep quiet. Despite wide support in committee and in both houses of the legislature, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois opposes HB 4242. … [Ben Ruddell, an attorney with the ACLU] said the public posting requirement creates a “pseudo-sex offender registry,” which could lead to further invasions of privacy for government employees.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

17 Comments
  1. - Fred - Thursday, May 24, 18 @ 9:27 am:

    “Madigan reversed course from his earlier denials over the concerns I raised.”

    He did? I think he stuck to the denials and just called for an investigation.

    The changes proposed in the senate bills make a lot of sense.


  2. - Anonymous - Thursday, May 24, 18 @ 9:33 am:

    Uuuuu, the good ole boys ain’t gonna like this. You go sister


  3. - wordslinger - Thursday, May 24, 18 @ 9:36 am:

    –…it is riddled with trap doors, blind alleys and loopholes..–

    Sounds like a Scooby-Doo episode.

    –While the reasons for the lengthy vacancy in the office of Legislative Inspector General were never publicly reported, news reports at the time suggest that the issue related to a situation where the LIG found cause to launch an investigation and was denied permission to open an investigation by the partisan leadership appointees to the Legislative Ethics Commission.–

    Anyone know what Cassidy is referring to here? My google wizardry was of no help.

    If we’re going for transparency, let’s be clear as to what we’re talking about.


  4. - Anonymous - Thursday, May 24, 18 @ 9:37 am:

    Cassidy is like a fine pair of steel toed high heels. They look great, but MAN, they can hurt ya


  5. - Anonymous - Thursday, May 24, 18 @ 9:40 am:

    *Sounds Nike a Scooby Doo episode*. Answers the question: what does Senor Slinger do when he’s not commenting


  6. - Roman - Thursday, May 24, 18 @ 9:45 am:

    I agree there are some real holes in the LIG process…but who else is going to investigate this matter? The Attorney General? Governor Rauner’s State Police? A law firm that will immediately be subjected to a “Six Degrees of Seperation” game until a connection to the speaker is identified?

    Let’s just give Julie Porter a chance to do her job. It seems her investigation of Ira Silverstein was widely accepted as being thorough and fair.

    Let’s also keep in mind that this is not a sexual harrassment complaint. It’s a complaint about political retaliation with many players and many layers. Almost every thing that was said and done will be open to interpretation. Which will make the allegations hard to prove and even harder to disprove.


  7. - Chicago_Downstater - Thursday, May 24, 18 @ 9:52 am:

    Good on Rep Cassidy. Keep up the good fight.

    If that bill makes it out of the Senate, then I hope Madigan doesn’t kill it. I’d like to think he wouldn’t because of how it might look. However, he’s wily and there are plenty of ways to kill a bill in the House without making it look like you killed the bill.

    Still might be a moot point if it doesn’t make it out of the Senate.


  8. - Chicago_Downstater - Thursday, May 24, 18 @ 9:56 am:

    @Roman

    I might be missing something, but where does Cassidy ask for someone else to investigate? She’s using this moment to highlight the issues within the LIG process that a bill in the Senate would reform. She’s not asking for a change of venue, but rather a reform of venue.


  9. - Rich Miller - Thursday, May 24, 18 @ 10:02 am:

    ===Anyone know what Cassidy is referring to here?===

    Pretty sure it was the Metra thing.


  10. - One Time - Thursday, May 24, 18 @ 10:17 am:

    When will the house dem women come out with a statement?


  11. - wordslinger - Thursday, May 24, 18 @ 10:20 am:

    Thanks, Rich.


  12. - Rich Miller - Thursday, May 24, 18 @ 10:24 am:

    Welcome, word, but now I’m being told that the Tribune article I was relying on was in error.


  13. - Birdseed - Thursday, May 24, 18 @ 10:33 am:

    === - Roman - Thursday, May 24, 18 @ 9:45 am:

    Let’s also keep in mind that this is not a sexual harrassment complaint. ===

    The Speaker asked the LIG to investigate sexual harassment in his letter. I think that was a mistake.


  14. - "Old Timer Dem" - Thursday, May 24, 18 @ 1:08 pm:

    How did Cassidy get her part-time gig with the Cook
    County Sheriff’s office? Did she get assistance? Just asking?


  15. - driver - Thursday, May 24, 18 @ 1:14 pm:

    Much of what Cassidy cites in her letter is inaccurate, and shows a real misunderstanding of how the process works. It’s hard to accurately criticize something you don’t know or understand. The reality is there are only a few people who really understand the processes of the Ethics Commissions, both legislative and executive. The ethics officers within the executive branch and those who work for the EEC should probably spend some time educating the members of the General Assembly on what happens in practice.


  16. - DeniseRotheimer - Thursday, May 24, 18 @ 2:37 pm:

    -driver-Thursday, May 24, 2018 @1:14pm… I know how the process works because I went through it. I also sent Rich a voicemail I got from Porter on 11/11/17 stating that she needs to still get some permissions before moving forward on my complaint. I read the entire statute and operational rules of the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act and LEC, respectively — so let me please share some important facts. Cassidy is correct in her statement regarding the process. The law has two sections: one for the Executive Branch which requires the accused not to only be cooperative with the inspector general but to be truthful. However, the section pertaining to the legislative branch omits truthful and only requires the accused to cooperate. You can look it up. I would not recommend anyone to go through this process because the accused has no rights, no ability to challenge the findings, but the accused does–I am sorry that Cassidy is being forced to go through this process and I hope she gets support from people who realize that the process is designed to protect the accused–in Porter’s words to me–”It’s not a process of justice. And if you want rights, there are other avenues.” FYI–according to statute the vacancy of the LIG is still open. Porter’s appointment did not satisfy the requirement in law pertaining to the section of the appointment of the LIG. There is a separate section that pertains to the appointment of a special LIG which is not a requirement in law and does not fill the vacancy of the LIG.


  17. - driver - Thursday, May 24, 18 @ 3:04 pm:

    Ms. Rothheimer, you are misinterpreting the statute. The language of 20-70 and 25-70 may not be identical, but it has the same meaning. All persons subject to the Ethics Act have a duty to cooperate, and cooperation includes telling the truth. Lying to an Inspector General can result in dismissal.

    You are correct that the process isn’t set up to provide rights to the person making the complaint. The types of violations under the Ethics Act are not criminal or victim-centered. The State, not an individual, is the victim when a state employee engages in prohibited political activity or violates the gift ban. The process doesn’t protect the accused - it provides due process and fairness. Things often lacking in a political process. You may not think an accused deserves those things, but I do.

    I heard your testimony before the Senate and the House and I read what you proposed. The process you want presumes the accused is guilty until proven innocent. That’s not how any system should work. That isn’t beneficial to the victim, the accused, or society.


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