News Local/State

Porter Appointed As Legislative Inspector General

The Illinois Statehouse.

A view of the Statehouse in Springfield, where lawmakers have appointed Julie Porter as the new Legislative Inspector General. Jenna Dooley/WNIJ

The Illinois General Assembly has finally chosen someone to investigate ethics complaints against state legislators and staff. The position had been vacant for nearly three years.

Julie Porter is a lawyer based in Evanston. She used to be a federal prosecutor — working on the team that brought down Springfield powerbroker Bill Cellini.

Porter is taking up a substantial workload. Since the last legislative inspector general stepped down nearly three years ago, 27 cases have piled up.

This all came to light last week, when a citizen activist went public with charges of sexual harassment against state Sen. Ira Silverstein. The woman made a formal ethics complaint last year, but it’s gone nowhere.

With a newfound urgency, a group of eight lawmakers assigned to oversee ethics met by phone over the weekend and selected Porter for the job.

But there are questions about whether some of those 27 cases might be too old.

That’s because the State Ethics Act says an investigation cannot start more than one year after the most recent violation.

Since there hasn’t been someone in the inspector general role in nearly three years — the majority of those more than two-dozen cases could be blocked. But Democrats are reportedly working on legislation intended to extend that statute of limitations.