CHICAGO (CBS) — The attorney for a former aide to Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford claimed the former candidate for governor acted like a “mob boss,” by intimidating employees to work on his campaign, and that of 2012 presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.
Edmund Michalowski, who left Rutherford’s office in February, already had claimed his former boss sexually harassed him and illegally pressured him into doing campaign work.
WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports Michalowski’s original lawsuit was dismissed by a federal judge last week, but he was given a week to refile. The amended suit against Rutherford and others still alleges the treasurer sexually harassed Michalowski, but expands on his allegations of political intimidation.
New lead attorney Dana Kurtz said Michalowski was pressured to work for Rutherford’s campaign for governor, as well as Mitt Romney’s 2012 bid for president.
She said Rutherford forced public employees, including Michalowski, to work on both campaigns, or lose their jobs.
“The allegations are that Rutherford acted essentially as a mob boss,” she said. “Had a hit list – which included Michalowski – that as a result of not doing enough political work, they were going to be fired after the election.”
Michalowski filed the original lawsuit in February, just weeks ahead of the primary election. Rutherford vehemently denied the allegations, and questioned the timing of the lawsuit, which was filed just five weeks before the March primary, although some of the allegations dated back three years.
Last week, U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow dismissed Michalowski’s original lawsuit, after Rutherford’s attorneys had argued Michalowski failed to provide sufficient evidence that he had any “plausible claims” against the treasurer.
After filing the amended lawsuit, Kurtz said Thursday there is documented evidence of improper political pressure, including spreadsheets Michalowski was forced to maintain, listing specific dollar amounts for potential donors to give to the campaigns.
“There were express threats that if he did not do this work, if he did not use his own funds to reimburse and to pay – for example – for interns, that he would be fired or lose his job,” Kurtz said.
Kurtz did not say the national Romney campaign knew of any alleged wrongdoing by the Rutherford camp. Rutherford chaired Romney’s campaign in Illinois.
“I don’t know if they knew about it. The point is is that Rutherford was in charge of that campaign. He was in charge of that campaign for the state of Illinois,” Kurtz said. “He was in charge of raising money for Mitt Romney’s campaign, and was using state resources to fund that campaign, and his own campaign.”
Rutherford’s office said they had no comment on the latest allegations, but he has vehemently denied the original sexual harassment and political intimidation allegations.
Rutherford’s attorneys previously argued Michalowski provided no proof that he was ever forced to do any political work, or that Rutherford had any reason to believe Michalowski was doing campaign work involuntarily.
They also said Michalowski failed to identify any specific employees who were given raises or promotions for their campaign work, or that Michalowski ever applied for a promotion, much less that he was denied one.
Michalowski, who left Rutherford’s office just days before filing his suit and took a job with the Cook County Recorder of Deeds, also claimed Rutherford had made repeated unwanted sexual advances toward him for three years.
In one instance, Michalowski claimed Rutherford invited him to the treasurer’s home in Chenoa in 2011 for what was purported to be an “office retreat,” but no other employees showed up, and after dinner, while Michalowski was in the guest bedroom, Rutherford came in and grabbed Michalowski’s genitals.
Michalowski alleged he confronted Rutherford’s chief of staff, Kyle Ham – who also is named as a defendant – about the encounter, and Ham told him “’it had happened to him as well,” and said, “at least we have job security,” according to a copy of the lawsuit.
Rutherford denied the encounter ever happened, and claimed Michalowski’s own travel vouchers indicated he had returned to his Chicago office by the time of the alleged confrontation at Rutherford’s house downstate.
Though Rutherford already was trailing in the polls when Michalowski leveled the allegations, his numbers plummeted after the lawsuit was filed, and Rutherford eventually came in last out of the four GOP candidates for governor.