SPRINGFIELD (Illinois News Network) — The newly appointed Inspector General in Springfield told the victim of alleged sexual harassment by a lawmaker to turn over unlimited access to her cell phone and social media account.
Anti-abuse advocate Denise Rotheimer says Julie Porter, the woman lawmakers tabbed to be the Legislative Inspector General, asked for a little more of her private life than she wanted to give up.
Eventually, Porter settled for just the information specific to Rotheimer’s complaint.
Rotheimer had already given Porter hundreds of pages of Facebook and other comments she received from married state Senator Ira Silverstein, D-Chicago. The comments included things that ranged from aggressive flirtation to lewd comments about Rotheimer’s body.
Sitting next to Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie and House Speaker Michael Madigan, Rotheimer told a House committee in October that she had to be hospitalized after shedding an unhealthy amount of weight and began to lose her hair, all due to the stress of Silverstein’s aggressive advances and threats to kill the legislation she said families and victims of violence were counting on her to pass.
Rotheimer, who is now running for office as a Republican in the northern Chicago suburbs, was suspicious that any information that she gave Porter would end up in the hands of someone looking to protect Silverstein or damage her.
“This reiterates my concerns about how they’re going to try and extract information from me to do what they want,” she said.
“That sounds like a clear overreach by the Inspector General,” said Les Alderman, partner at Alderman, Devorsetz & Hora and a defense attorney who has represented multiple congressional staffers in harassment cased in Washington D.C. “It sounds like the Inspector General is actually attempting to find some kind of damning evidence against the victim in order to justify dropping the investigation.”
In an emailed response, Porter said that she cannot give Rotheimer or Illinois News Network any details about the investigation.
“I cannot even comment on the existence of an investigation, let alone answer questions about a particular inquiry,” she said.
It was lack of transparency that attributed to the last full-time Legislative Inspector General to resign. Thomas J. Homer, who now practices law from his firm in Naperville, called the office “toothless” and said most complaints he considered that warranted further action and transparency were swept under the rug by the Legislative Ethics Commission, an eight-member board of lawmakers with ultimate say on nearly all facets of ethics violations regarding the General Assembly.
Calls to remove lawmakers from the process of policing themselves have come from outside Springfield as well as within.
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