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Professional complaints filed against Cullerton, Madigan and others

Illinois Watchdog.Org

Tuesday, June 12, 2018  |  Article  |  By Greg Bishop

Legislature (56) , Sexual Harassment (96) Brady, Bill--State Senate, 44 , Clayborne Jr., James--State Senate, 57 , Connelly, Michael--State House, 48 , Cullerton, John--State Senate, 6 , Durkin, Jim--State House, 82 , Lang, Lou--State House, 16 , Link, Terry--State Senate, 30 , Madigan, Michael--State House, 22 , Turner, Arthur--State House, 9
A victims’ rights activist who was the first to publicly name a state legislator for alleged abuse of power has now filed a complaint against a slew of other state lawmakers who are also lawyers, claiming misconduct, malfeasance and other violations of professional standards.

Denise Rotheimer said Monday she filed a complaint with Illinois’ Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission against several high-ranking lawmakers, including state Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, and House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago. Rotheimer also filed complaints against lawmakers who are attorneys on the Legislative Ethics Commission and against the special legislative inspector general. The ARDC was established by the Illinois Supreme Court to "promote and protect the integrity of the legal profession." The Illinois Supreme Court has the authority to disbar attorneys.

The complaints stem from the more than two-year vacancy for the legislative inspector general position. The inspector general is responsible for investigating allegations of lawmaker wrongdoing. While the post was vacant, complaints forwarded to the office sat untouched.

“Hopefully the ARDC having respect for the profession will see that those who have licenses to practice in the state are held to the laws and whether or not they become lawmakers are not immune to breaking those laws,” Rotheimer said.

Rothiemer’s comments came following her appearance at a news conference that included Republican state lawmakers and Republican candidates for various House seats. The Republican lawmakers were calling for a change in Democratic leadership, and for further reforms in how ethics complaints are handled in state government.

The ARCD complaint also follows a tumultuous couple of weeks and months where Madigan’s inner circle took some hits over allegations of wrongdoing and harassing or sexist behavior.

State Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, said “enough is enough.”

“We have wholesale government failure on so many fronts. The same leaders in Springfield have held power for so long that they think and their underlings believe they can say, do, vote, ignore, disrespect as they like,” Ives said. “They continue in power because no one has held them to account for their actions, until now.

“The culture of corruption and disregard for the regular folks in this state, whether they work in government or not, must end,” Ives said. “We cannot be a good and virtuous society without good and virtuous leaders.”

Others at Monday’s news conference called for the immediate resignation of Madigan. They also called for an independent and permanent Legislative Inspector General, and further reforms to how ethics complaints against lawmakers are handled.

"I think the facts show when Madigan learned of the complaint, he acted," Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said. "Does not appear the matter will have any merit."

"Our focus is on improving the process and putting the newly approved and enacted changes into effect," said John Patterson, a spokesman for Cullerton.

The complaint said Madigan, Cullerton and others should have known the office was vacant since December 2014.

Rotheimer filed her complaint against state Sen. Ira Silverstein to Senate President John Cullerton’s office in November 2016. Cullerton reportedly referred the complaint to the Legislative Ethics Commission, Rotheimer wrote in the complaint.

Rotheimer claimed that Madigan willfully omitted any disclosure of the vacancy during a hearing in October 2017 “to properly inform the public or myself that an investigation into my complaints could not have taken place since he and Cullerton allowed the post remain vacant” in violation to state law.

“Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton owed a duty of care to ensure the laws of this state are followed,” Rotheimer’s complaint says. “As a result of nonfeasance, the duty of both Madigan and Cullerton was breached and caused injury to me because I was forced to go public with my complaint against Silverstein eleven months after I filed my complaint … The misconduct of both Madigan and Cullerton betrayed my trust in the legislature and Illinois government.”

Rothiemers’ complaint to the ARDC names past and current members of the Legislative Ethics Commission who are also lawyers, including Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, Rep. Art Turner, D-Chicago, Sen. Michael Connelly, R-Naperville, Sen. James Clayborne, D-Belleville, and Sen. Terry Link, D-Vernon Hills.

Lang was recently replaced on the LEC by Currie following allegations last month of harassment and intimidation.

Other lawmakers on the commission were not named in the complaint because they are not lawyers.

“Neither the members of the LEC nor (Special Legislative Inspector General Julie) Porter had a right to authorize the Special Legislative Inspector General with this task and all parties knowingly exceeded authority for improper reasons,” the complaint alleges. “This act of malfeasance allowed the Special Legislative Inspector General to commit an offense of spoliation of evidence with impunity.”

Rotheimer also said Republican statehouse leaders Sen. Bill Brady and Rep. Jim Durkin were still culpable for not putting an LIG in place. But she said she couldn't find in state statute where minority leaders are legally obligated to certify an LIG.

She said alongside Madigan and Cullerton, Brady and Durkin should also step down from leadership.

“If we have a total change in leadership, then we could realistically begin to see a change of the culture and have a process reformed in a way where it would then be independent, impartial, a true system of justice,” Rotheimer said.

The ARDC operates under the authority of the Illinois Supreme Court. It makes recommendations to the court, which has the authority to sanction, disciple and disbar lawyers in Illinois.

The ARDC board has four lawyers and four nonlawyers and has a staff of more than 100 that oversee lawyer registration, conduct investigations, prosecute disciplinary cases and produce publications and programs on ethics and discipline. They’re funded by the annual fee lawyers pay to practice in Illinois.

Any investigation into the fitness or conduct of an Illinois lawyer comes from the ARDC at the direction of the commission. The administration has investigative subpoena power and Illinois lawyers are required to cooperate with investigations of themselves or another attorney.

“All investigations are confidential,” according to the ARDC website. ARDC disciplinary prosecutions are adjudicated publicly.