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Gov’s ex-lawyer ready to ‘move on,’ says probe cleared him of ‘false’ complaint

Gov. Bruce Rauner met with the Sun-Times Editorial Board Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018. File Photo. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

The former top lawyer in Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration on Friday said he has been vindicated after a six-month state watchdog investigation that fueled rumors swirling around his abrupt departure from the governor’s office last summer.

Rauner’s ex-general counsel Dennis Murashko was among the key aides who either resigned or were fired during a massive staff shakeup last summer that saw a number of former staff members from the conservative Illinois Policy Institute joining – and then quickly leaving — the administration.

“Today, the Office of the Executive Inspector General notified me that the Office has concluded the investigation into the false, malicious, and defamatory complaint against me. The case has been closed as unfounded,” Murashko wrote in a statement Friday. “In layman’s terms, the complaint has always been a lie.”

Dennis Murashko | LinkedIn photo

The specifics of the complaint remain unclear. In the weeks after his ouster, sources told Politico Murashko was accused of “using his position to dole out plum duties to someone with whom he had a personal relationship.”

An Office of the Executive Inspector General spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment. The agency only releases public reports “in cases where misconduct is found to have occurred,” according to its website.

Murashko said the complaint against him was dated July 19, a week after the staff exodus began. Murashko contends that former staffers “wrongly believed” he was behind Rauner’s decision to replace chief of staff Richard Goldberg with former Illinois Policy Institute head Kristina Rasmussen.

“I don’t think the timing of the complaint is coincidental,” Murashko wrote.

In a conference call the morning of Aug. 24 — the day Murashko says he learned of the inspector general complaint — Rauner assured staffers that Murashko was not among the growing exodus, but hours later the governor’s office publicly announced Murashko was resigning, saying he’d stay on board through Aug. 31 to smooth the transition.

Murashko ended up being escorted out of the Thompson Center the next day.

“Why staff members decided to have me escorted out a week ahead of the scheduled departure I don’t know. What I do know is, because of their actions, there’s been this false link between the OEIG complaint and my resignation,” according to Murashko, who wrote that he submitted his letter of resignation Aug. 23.

Speculation also swirled around whether Rauner had forced out Murashko over a memo he sent to employees in the governor’s office. The memo, obtained by Capitol Fax, outlined restrictions on government employees from sharing documents with Rauner’s campaign team.

A spokeswoman for the governor did not return messages seeking comment Friday.

“The memo was necessary, and to this day, I stand by it 100%. I provided the memo to the staff and then resigned. If I were to do it all over, I would do the same thing,” Murashko wrote.

Reached by phone on Friday, Murashko said he was resentful of his abrupt escort from the Thompson Center, but he said he holds no hard feelings toward Rauner or his current administration.

“I’m very much looking forward to the time when none of this is hanging over me,” Murashko said. “It feels like I can move on.”