SPRINGFIELD-The state’s top ethics watchdog Wednesday accused a campaign consultant for state Sen. Napoleon Harris of misusing family leave time from his state job so he could do legislative campaign work.
State Executive Inspector General Ricardo Meza recommended that University Park resident Curtis Thompson be barred from future state employment because of his alleged actions.
“Mr. Thompson sought [family] leave on a fraudulent basis, submitted a false [family leave] form and attempted to cover up his fraudulent activity by stating that he had resigned,” Meza’s report said.
Thompson, a one-time $66,612-a-year administrator at the Department of Central Management Services, obtained family leave time from the agency in January 2012 ostensibly to care for his terminally ill father in Alabama, Meza alleged.
But instead, the report said, Thompson did political work for parts of three months, leading up to the March 20, 2012 Democratic primary where Harris prevailed in a three-way race in the 15th Senate District.
Meza’s report does not explicitly name Harris as the legislative candidate for whom Thompson worked while on family leave from the state, and an aide to Meza would neither confirm nor deny Harris was the candidate.
But the report outlines four dates on which Thompson received a combined $9,500 for his political work. State campaign records show that Harris paid Thompson that amount on the same four dates identified in Meza’s report.
Thompson told the Chicago Sun-Times Wednesday that he engaged in no wrongdoing and that he had resigned his state job before doing political work.
“The report is not accurate. I didn’t leave the state in order to work on a campaign, nor did I work on a campaign on state time,” he said.
Thompson would not divulge anything about his campaign work for Harris, other than to describe the senator as a “great guy.”
The unnamed candidate believed to be Harris told investigators that Thompson “was retained to assist with campaign activities such as gathering voter data. [The candidate] also told investigators that Mr. Thompson told him that he would need to take leave time from his job in order to start working for his campaign,” Meza’s report said.
“[The candidate] also told investigators that Mr. Thompson made one trip to Alabama to visit his sick father,” the report said.
Messages left for Harris at his state Senate office and his congressional campaign office weren’t returned. On Wednesday, Harris ended his bid for the congressional seat once held by former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Chicago).
Harris was not accused of any wrongdoing by Meza.
Investigators, who’d been tipped about Thompson’s possible misuse of leave time from his state job, determined through surveillance of the candidate’s campaign office and through telephone calls that Thompson had worked there.
Investigators contacted Thompson on the date of the primary to lay out the allegations against him. He maintained he’d resigned from CMS in February and produced a handwritten resignation letter dated Feb. 1, 2012. His boss at CMS contended he never received that document from Thompson, Meza’s report said.
State payroll records show Thompson left the state payroll on March 21, 2012, one day after the Illinois primary election. Meza’s report states that Thompson was fired by CMS on that date because his “stated reasons for seeking leave were false.”