Lawsuit Accuses Rutherford Of Sexual Harassment
By The Associated Press, With Additional Reporting From Illinois Public Radio
A former employee in Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford's office has filed a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment and that the Republican gubernatorial candidate made him do political work on state time.
The lawsuit was filed Monday in Chicago's federal court on behalf of Ed Michalowski. He was a lawyer and director in Rutherford's office.
The complaint alleges Rutherford made inappropriate sexual advances toward Michalowski, among other things.
Michalowski also says he went to an employee retreat - that was held at Rutherford’s downstate Chenoa home. Michalowski said he was the only guest there.
He alleges when he went to bed in the guest room - Rutherford came in and fondled him. Michalowski says he left immediately.
He said when he reported the alleged abuse to Rutherford’s chief-of-staff - there was no follow-up.
Rutherford has been anticipating the lawsuit. For the last week - he has been telling reporters that the allegations are false - without discussing the actual details.
Rutherford has said there's "absolutely no truth'' to the former employee's claims.
He held a news conference last month and publicized that an employee was making "allegations of misconduct'' against him. For the last week - he has been telling reporters that the allegations are false - without discussing the actual details. Rutherford said an outside investigation will clear his name.
Rutherford has accused Republican gubernatorial rival Bruce Rauner of being behind the accusations. Rauner denies any involvement.
Rutherford called a Monday news conference to refute the claims in the lawsuit, and said state documents back him up. He says no one in the treasurer's office has been forced to do campaign work on state time.
Rutherford said the treasurer's office had not previously been informed of allegations of harassment and there were no witnesses to the claims.
He questions the timing of the allegations, which come weeks before the March 18 primary election.
UPDATE: The Associated Press reports Michalowski has a history of financial problems.
He and his wife are divorcing. Public records show they filed for bankruptcy in 2011, claiming assets of $295,000 and liabilities of $642,000. A judgment of foreclosure and sale was entered against Michalowski's Chicago condo in October.
Rutherford has said Michalowski and his attorney offered to "walk away and keep (the allegations) under wraps'' in exchange for $300,000.
But Michalowski told The Associated Press he wasn't motivated by money. He says he has a new job and is "not in harm's way financially.''
Meanwhile, political analysts say the lawsuit likely will damage the GOP gubernatorial candidate's campaign.
David Yepsen is the director of Southern Illinois University's Paul Simon Public Policy Institute. He says any kind of sexual harassment charge against a major political figure is "toxic.''
Northern Illinois University Political Science Chair Matt Streb says the lawsuit will be a big distraction from the Chenoa Republican's main message.