Welcome to the Senate Republican Press Search.

View Article Details


Citizen files complaint to Legislative Inspector General over Sen. Cullerton’s indictment


Thursday, August 8, 2019  |  Article  |  By Greg Bishop | The Center Square

Ethics, Campaign Reform, Transparency (12a) , Legislature (56) Cullerton, John--State Senate, 6 , Cullerton, Thomas--State Senate, 23
A state senator indicted on a charge of embezzling nearly $250,000 from a labor union was removed from his post leading the Senate Labor Committee, but given a new leadership role as chairman of the Senate Veteran Affairs Committee, a move a man who filed a complaint with the inspector general said stinks.

Last week, state Sen. Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park, was indicted on a count of allegedly embezzling from the Teamsters union. His attorney said he was innocent.

Senate President John Cullerton’s office said Tom Cullerton has been removed from leading the Senate Labor Committee, but appointed chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

“Sen. Omar Aquino is chair of Labor Committee,” said John Patterson, a spokesman for the Senate President. “Sen. Tom Cullerton is chair of Veterans Affairs Committee.”

“After a discussion, it was a mutual decision that this was for the best,” Patterson said.

Private citizen John Bambenek said he filed a complaint with the Legislative Inspector General against Cullerton regarding the indictment. He said he was floored by the reappointment.

“They could have stripped his committee chairmanship,” Bambenek said. “That happens all the time. They could have taken him off the committee. They didn’t do that. They could have just stripped him of his committee chairmanship. Some basic step to say ‘hey, you know what, this is bad and we’re not going to have this guy act in a situation of leadership.' “

In 2017, Senate President Cullerton, D-Chicago, stripped former state Sen. Ira Silverstein, D-Chicago, of his committee positions after Silverstein was the subject of a Legislative Inspector General complaint alleging abuse of power. Silverstein was cleared of that complaint, but found to have acted inappropriately for his position.

Bambenek said Tom Cullerton’s chairmanship being shifted from Labor to Veteran Affairs Committee is a slap in the face of veterans.

“Their representation in the state Senate is being held by a guy under indictment because he just needed a job and needed to keep his stipend ...” Bambenek said.

Lawmakers in leadership positions, on committees or holding committee chairmanships get an extra stipend on top of their base legislator salary.

The Senate President’s office said everyone deserves the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

“This is clearly part of an ongoing investigation,” Patterson said. “The Senate President reminds everyone we have a system of justice that presumes everyone innocent until proven otherwise.”

Bambenek responded.

“The presumption of innocence applies only in the criminal context,” Bambenek said. “He is presumed to be innocent of a crime. That doesn’t mean his behavior is not shady.”

Bambenek said the LIG has received his complaint but it's unclear when the ethics commission will take it up or even act on it.