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Illinois GOP member calls on House Minority Leader Jim Durkin to release lawmaker harassment report


Wednesday, September 4, 2019  |  Article  |  By Cole Lauterbach | The Center Square

Ethics, Campaign Reform, Transparency (12a) , Legislature (56) , Sexual Harassment (96) Durkin, Jim--State House, 82 , Madigan, Michael--State House, 22 , McSweeney, David--State House, 52

A Republican lawmaker called on the leader of his own caucus Tuesday to have the same woman who investigated House Speaker Michael Madigan’s office investigate the GOP.

State Rep. David McSweeney said House Minority Leader Jim Durkin likely knows who was at the center of an ethics complaint former Legislative Inspector General Julie Porter wanted to be made public. The Legislative Ethics Commission, which is comprised of state lawmakers, never released the report.

“It is highly inappropriate for members of the General Assembly to not release a report about misconduct by one of their colleagues,” McSweeney said. “Essentially what we have in Springfield is insiders protecting insiders. I believe that Leader Jim Durkin is aware of the founded misconduct that Porter is referring to and that it likely involves a Republican House member. Illinois citizens deserve to know about legislator misconduct, especially now when legislators are potentially filing to run for re-election.”

In an opinion piece, Porter said she recommended an investigation involving an unnamed lawmaker be made public. She said the Legislative Ethics Committee denied the request. 

“When I agreed to serve as acting legislative inspector general in 2017, I knew that there were structural problems, but never for a minute did I believe that the commission would take any action to thwart my independence. I certainly did not think that the commission would refuse to publish one of my founded summary reports,” she wrote. “I was wrong.”

The four-lawmaker Legislative Ethics Committee decides what reports are released. If the committee is deadlocked in a 2-2 tie, any complaint that could be made public would never be released.

McSweeney also said he wanted Durkin to enlist Maggie Hickey to investigate the House GOP organization. 

"She's seen as somebody who's completely independent across the board and should be brought in to do a complete, independent investigation," McSweeney said.

Hickey investigated the House Democratic organization. House Speaker Michael Madigan voluntarily released Hickey's report the public. That report outlined a history of bullying, intimidation and other wrongdoing within Madigan's office. Madigan said he took responsibility for not doing enough. 

While much of the spotlight has been on Madigan’s camp, the House GOP caucus has had its own problems. Former state Rep. Nick Sauer stepped down after he was accused of posting explicit images of two ex-girlfriends online without their consent and faces criminal charges in Lake County. Former Rep. Jerry Lee Long was stripped of his legislative aides after allegations of harassing behavior and later lost his re-election bid.

McSweeney has been critical of Durkin. The Barrington Hills conservative has chastised Durkin for going along with a statewide gas tax hike and for failing to keep Republicans from overriding Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of a budget that included a historic income tax hike. McSweeney was previously stripped of his access to GOP staffers for criticizing another Republican. 

A spokeswoman for Durkin dismissed McSweeney’s comments Tuesday.

“The House Republicans have addressed each and every allegation of abuse and misconduct swiftly and publicly. We will continue to ensure a safe workplace for all staff and employees,” Eleni Demertzis said.

She said McSweeney’s call for an investigation was the “ramblings from someone who hasn't even taken the time to show up for caucus in the last 5 years.”

McSweeney said that he hasn’t attended a Republican caucus in years. The Daily Herald commended McSweeney for that in a 2017 editorial. 

Durkin requested in 2018 the assistance of an outside firm to make recommendations on harassment procedure. That lead to changes, but McSweeney said it was a far cry from the level of independence that Democrats gave Hickey in her investigation.