Watchdog clears Lang of sex harassment — but accuser blasts probe as ‘a joke’

SHARE Watchdog clears Lang of sex harassment — but accuser blasts probe as ‘a joke’

Maryann Loncar, left, and state Rep. Lou Lang, right, speak at separate news conferences on May 31. | Sun-Times files

The state’s acting legislative inspector general has cleared state Rep. Lou Lang of harassment allegations — ruling there’s not enough evidence to prove such harassment occurred, in part because the woman who accused him would not be interviewed for the investigation.

The Skokie Democrat hailed the conclusion, saying “I have been vindicated and this matter is now closed.” But the woman who lodged the complaint against him blasted the decision, dubbing the entire investigative process “a joke” on sexual harassment victims and Illinois taxpayers.

Lang was stripped of his leadership posts in May — just a day after he helped Illinois become the 37th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment on the Illinois House floor.

Maryann Loncar went public with the claims on May 31, saying, “I was harassed. I was intimidated. I was humiliated.”  Loncar said Lang, the House deputy majority leader, committed “terrible acts against her” and accused him of killing a hemp bill she had been working to pass.

She said Lang once put his hand on her lower back and asked her if she knew “how lucky” her husband was to have a wife like her. In another instance, Loncar said Lang called her during dinner, asked if she was alone and remarked that he’d like to join her.

But in a report issued Wednesday, Julie Porter, the acting legislative inspector general, wrote that there is not enough evidence to support Loncar’s claims and that the matter is now closed.

She also wrote in an email to Lang that she found Loncar’s allegations “unfounded.”

“Given her unwillingness to speak to me, and taking her descriptions and those of her colleague at face value, I do not have sufficient evidence to support a conclusion that such occurrences, if they even happened, constituted sexual harassment,” Porter wrote.

Lang said in a statement issued Wednesday that “the allegations were absurd and false and remain so today.

“Therefore, I welcome the Inspector General’s conclusion that completely dismisses the allegations as ‘unfounded,’” Lang wrote. “As far as I’m concerned, I have been vindicated and this matter is now closed.”

Loncar released a lengthy statement on Thursday afternoon, saying, in part that she did not file the complaint. Lang did. Loncar wrote that she was “not being taken seriously,” and didn’t trust Porter’s investigation.

According to the report, Porter spoke to a witness who told her “on one occasion, he observed you [Lang] place your arm around Loncar, low on her back, and Loncar moved away.” Lang denied Loncar’s description.

Still, Porter warned that it is “of the utmost importance that legislators maintain a professional demeanor.”

Porter wrote that the witness didn’t know of any other instances of purported sexual harassment.

“When questioned concerning how, in his view, you sexually harassed Loncar, the witness emphasized that Springfield was an ‘old boys’ club,’ and you were adversarial with Loncar and the witness concerning the cannabis legislation, ultimately passing what the witness viewed as an overly restrictive bill.”

Porter wrote that her investigation was limited because Loncar wouldn’t speak with her, but the inspector general did interview other witnesses and reviewed documents.

“Based on the weight of evidence, I do not sustain Loncar’s allegations that you threatened to ‘bury’ Loncar, or that you were offered a $170 million bribe,” Porter wrote, adding Loncar’s ex-husband denied there was a threat. In addition, multiple people at a meeting in which she alleged a bribe happened disputed her characterization. Loncar was not present at the meeting.

In her statement, Loncar criticized the investigative process, saying she also received a phone call from Maggie Hickey, who left Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration in March and was handpicked by Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and a group of female lawmakers to try to overhaul the workplace culture throughout the Illinois House of Representatives.

“There are two Inspector Generals being paid tax dollars and neither of them seem aware of each other’s existence,” Loncar wrote. “What I have seen played out since my press conference confirms everything I assumed about having a Legislative Inspector General appointed by the Speaker of the House: it is a joke. The joke is on the victims. The joke is on the Illinois taxpayers.”

Porter was actually appointed by the Legislative Ethics Commission, which is comprised of eight legislators — two each appointed by the legislative leaders.

Loncar wrote that her allegations are “no joking matter” and that they “deserve a proper look.”

Shortly after Loncar accused Lang in May, he held his own news conference and issued a statement calling for an investigation of the accusations and announcing his resignation as House deputy majority leader and other leadership posts. But he also attacked Loncar’s motives, saying she was upset because she failed to win a license to dispense medical marijuana.

Lang wrote that day that he was stepping down from his leadership post “to avoid distraction from the agenda of the House Democratic Caucus.”

Madigan said in a statement in May that Lang resigned from his leadership posts after consulting with him. It’s not immediately clear whether Lang will retain those posts.

This is the second major legislative harassment investigation for Porter, who in January concluded that state Sen. Ira Silverstein did 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.”

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