Illinois lawmakers in Springfield. | AP File Photo by Seth Perlman

Watchdog to oversee complaints involving lawmakers — after four year gap

SHARE Watchdog to oversee complaints involving lawmakers — after four year gap
SHARE Watchdog to oversee complaints involving lawmakers — after four year gap

Months after whistleblowers unveiled a #MeToo problem in Springfield, a legislative ethics commission on Tuesday named a former prosecutor and appellate court judge to the post of permanent legislative inspector general — the first time the spot has been permanently filled since June 2014.

The Legislative Ethics Commission recommended Carol Pope take on the role of investigating complaints involving lawmakers. Pope was the Menard County State’s Attorney for seven years, while also having served 17 years as a circuit court judge and nine years on the Illinois Fourth District Appellate Court.

Pope’s term would begin in March 2019 and last until June 2023.Julie Porter, the state’s acting legislative inspector general and a former federal prosecutor, will continue her work until Feb. 28, 2019.

State Sen. Cristina Castro, D-Elgin, was among legislators who recommended Pope.

“I believe that with the help of Judge Pope, we will ensure that we hold people accountable when they need to be and protect those who need it,” Castro, also a member of the Legislative Ethics Commission, said in a statement.

The state hasn’t had a permanent legislative inspector general since June 2014, when former appellate court justice Tom Homer stepped down after serving a decade in that role.

That left a giant backlog.Between December 2014 and Nov. 3, 2017, the legislative inspector general’s office had received 27 written requests for investigation. An Oct. 15 quarter report from Porter’s office showed she had 17 investigations pending, including two sexual harassment claims.

Porter has handled some high-profile cases — including accusations lobbed against former State Sen. Ira Silverstein, D-Chicago, and State Rep. Lou Lang, D-Chicago. Porter concluded that Silversteindid not engage in sexual harassment “or other unlawful conduct,” but “he did behave in a manner unbecoming a legislator in violation of the Illinois Governmental Ethics Act.” Porter cleared Lang of harassment allegations — ruling there’s not enough evidence to prove such harassment occurred, in partbecause the woman who accused him would not be interviewed for the investigation.

Since February, Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan — who also serves as the chairman of the state’s Democratic Party — has forced out aide Kevin Quinn and Tim Mapes, his chief of staff and executive director of the state’s Democratic party, over harassment allegations. Madigan, too, forced Lang’s hand in resigning from his leadership positions.

And last week, incoming state representative Anne Stava-Murray, D-Naperville, said she’d be filing a complaint after she claimed she had been “forcibly kissed” by a lawmaker at a dinner for lawmakers and freshmen legislators. Stava-Murray also said she had experienced “multi-pronged harassment,” which in part included multiple calls urging her to vote for Madigan as statehouse speaker.

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