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Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford denies sexual harassment claims

Posted February 12, 2014 by Joe Rehana in News
Illinois State Treasurer and GOP gubernatorial candidate Dan Rutherford speaks to supporters at the Vienna Diner on a recent campaign stop in the region in this Dec. 28, 2013 file photo. ~ Joe Rehana | Goreville Gazette

Illinois State Treasurer and GOP gubernatorial candidate Dan Rutherford speaks to supporters at the Vienna Diner on a recent campaign stop in the region in this Dec. 28, 2013 file photo. ~ Joe Rehana | Goreville Gazette

A former employee for Illinois State treasurer Dan Rutherford claimed the gubernatorial candidate sexually harassed him and used his state office to further his political aspirations in federal court Monday.

Edmund Michalowski filed a federal lawsuit against the treasurer and his chief of staff Kyle Ham charging that Rutherford made unwanted sexual advances against him on more than one occasion, a charge that Rutherford vehemently denies.

“State records reviewed by the treasurer’s office bear no resemblance to Michalowski’s allegations,” Rutherford’s press secretary Catie Sheehan said in a press statement Monday evening.  Addressing what Rutherford’s office say are inconsistencies in Michalowski’s claims, Sheehan provided documents to the press that support Rutherford’s “stance that the allegations in Ed Michalowski’s lawsuit are false.”

“Further, contrary to his claims, Michalowski did not report any incidents of misconduct to his supervisor or through the Equal Employment Opportunity process, nor did anyone else report any type of misconduct on claims that are two and three years old,” Sheehan said.

Michalowski, 43, served as the treasurer’s director of community affairs and marketing before resigning last week saying he “felt intimidated by a news conference Rutherford held promising to combat the allegations while flanked by former federal agents,” according to the Sun-Times.

Rutherford’s news conference did not disclose the allegations made against him, but did say the charges were politically motivated and timed to disrupt his campaign.  In Michalowski’s lawsuit, he claims that while attending an overnight office retreat at Rutherford’s Pontiac home, the treasurer entered his bedroom and grabbed his genitals.  The lawsuit details other alleged harassments that are said to have taken place in August of 2011, August of 2012 and most recently December of 2013.  At a December office party, Rutherford allegedly went to Michalowski, rubbed his shoulders and said to him, “You need a full body massage.”

Michalowski’s lawsuit also claims that his immediate boss, Rutherford’s chief of staff Kyle Ham, failed to investigate his complaints.  He also claims that Ham demanded he and other staff to “perform political activity,” a charge that Rutherford’s office denies.

“No treasurer’s office employee in this administration has been pressured or otherwise coerced into performing political activity,” Sheehan said.  “Employees such as Michalowski have volunteered to perform political activity on their own time and using their own resources.”

Rutherford’s office also denied claims that Michalowski’s position was never in danger of demotion or decreased salary, saying “his $99,000 annual salary placed him among the six highest salaries at the treasurer’s office.”

The lawsuit against the treasurer comes a little more than a month before the March primary in which Rutherford is campaigning to be the Republican candidate for Illinois governor, a factor he said has played into the timing of the lawsuit.  Rutherford’s office claimed campaign rival Bruce Rauner was involved in the allegations but provided no proof of any participation other than saying Michalowski’s attorney was linked to Rauner’s campaign and had asked for $300,000 from the treasurer to keep it “under wraps.”

“The treasurer’s office will release a summary of the findings of its independent investigator, and will turn over the entire investigative file to its executive inspector general at the conclusion of the independent investigation,” treasurer press secretary Sheehan said.  “The treasurer’s office remains committed to providing a workplace that is free of any misconduct.”