Chicago, IL- Illinois Gubernatorial candidate Dan Rutherford was confident an independent investigation would exonerate him of allegations that he sexually harassed a male member of his staff. Rutherford was so confident that he promised to release the results of the investigation, but has since backtracked refusing to release the results of said investigation just weeks ahead of the primary.
Rutherford, who currently serves as State Treasurer, is one of several contenders hoping to win a March primary for the Governor’s race. But his candidacy has been tainted by allegations that he sexual harassed his former community outreach and marketing director, Edmund Michalowski, 43.
According to Michalowski’s lawsuit, Rutherford repeatedly made sexual advances and once groped his genitals at a work retreat and once issued a veiled threat after his Michalowski rebuffed his sexual advances.
Michalowski alleges that Rutherford sexually harassed him several times beginning in 2011 and asked him to do campaign work on the state’s dime. He also alleges he told Rutherford’s chief of staff about the harassment, but didn’t take any steps to stop the misconduct, telling Michalowski he should be happy he had a job.
Michalowski filed a federal sexual harassment lawsuit seeking compensation for his loss of wages and emotional distress.
Last week, Rutherford vehemently denied Michalwoski’s allegations and in a press conference said he was confident an independent investigation would exonerate him and accused his Republican contender Bruce Rauner of concocting the lawsuit to damage his reputation. He vowed to release the results of the independent investigation last Friday, but that day came and went with no report.
Now, Rutherford said he cannot release the results of the independent investigation because his legal counsel advised him not to disclose the findings. Rutherford’s attorney said the information gleaned in the investigation would be used to challenge the federal lawsuit.
Christine Svenson the attorney representing Michalowski told the Chicagoist:
“(Rutherford) was in favor of the report before he was against it. Clearly he doesn’t want to produce this report and I know why. I know what the witnesses told the investigator. They corroborated my client’s testimony, and they had new evidence that no one had heard before that is not favorable to Mr. Rutherford.”
Svenson said the report includes testimony from other witnesses who said Rutherford subjected them to unwanted sexual advances and asked them to do campaign work on the state’s time, which is also illegal.
Not releasing the findings of the independent investigation means the sexual harassment allegations will continue to the hang over Rutherford’s candidacy.
This is one of several sexual harassment scandals to dog local politicians in the past 18 months. There have been a number of high-profile cases in California, New York, Kentucky, and now Illinois.
In California, former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner was accused of sexually harassing almost 20 women; he resigned and is now on house arrest. In Kentucky state legislator Rep. John Arnold was accused of inappropriately touching two women who worked in his office; he also resigned.