The Illinois Legislature ethics panel has been hit with a complaint for neglecting to do their job for years. The question now is “who will investigate them?”
Anti-violence advocate Denise Rotheimer filed a complaint with Legislative Inspector General Julie Porter Wednesday against the panel Porter answers to: the Legislative Ethics Commission. In her complaint Rotheimer says the eight-lawmaker panel broke state law when they failed to appoint an acting legislative inspector general for three years, leaving dozens of complaints to go unaddressed.
“To allow for that vacancy to remain for three years shows that they are not serious about having these complaints investigated,” she said Thursday.
State law dictates that “the Commission shall designate an Acting Legislative Inspector General who shall serve until the vacancy is filled.”
The lawmakers named in Rotheimer’s complaint are: state Sen. Terry Link, D-Vernon Hills, Chairman, state Rep. Norine Hammond R-Macomb, state Sen. Cristina Castro, D-Elgin, state Rep. Chad Hays, R-Catlin, state Sen. Michael Connelly, R-Lisle, state Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, state Sen. Karen McConnaughay, R-St. Charles, and state Rep. Arthur Turner, D-Chicago.
In the three years of vacancy, dozens of complaints piled up. Porter recently told the Commission that only 10 were valid. One of the complaints she suggested be disregarded was because the accused lawmaker was no longer in office.
During a House floor debate about some of the new ethics laws passed, Hays heatedly chastised another member for saying that the commission members never made recommendations for an interim legislative inspector general. Hays claimed the commission did submit names for the vacant post, but legislative leaders from both parties took no action with them.
In addition to the new complaint, Rotheimer’s also asking that the commission members recuse themselves from her harassment complaint against state Sen. Ira Silverstein, D-Chicago, since hers was one of the complaints they shelved.
“Why should I feel as though they would take my complaint seriously if they allowed that position to remain vacant for three years,” she said.
These cases are typically handled in anonymity to protect both sides of a complaint, but Rotheimer has decided to forgo that in hopes that it will shed more light on a process that’s been criticized as ineffective and riddled with conflicts of interest in favor of the accused.
Most notably is the fact that Porter must ask the commission before she can investigate Rotheimer’s case against Silverstein. A split vote means the case goes nowhere. This step has been criticized by not only victims and their representatives, but lawmakers on the ethics commission itself.
“There are a lot of people still stuck in the dark, silently suffering because there has been no real reform,” Rotheimer said.