SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — An investigator hired by then-state Treasurer Dan Rutherford to review a former employee’s allegations of sexual harassment by the one-time gubernatorial hopeful found no evidence of harassment or retaliation, according to a copy of the review obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday.
The former employee, Edmund Michalowski, filed a federal lawsuit outlining the allegations in February 2014. Rutherford quickly ordered a review in an attempt to clear his name just weeks before the March primary election, but the lawsuit detonated his hopes to be the Republican nominee for governor that year.READ MORE: Chicago Animal Care To Give Away Free Pet Vaccines And Microchips
Michalowski’s attorney, Dana Kurtz, said Thursday that her client and other young men were being harassed and he wanted it to stop.
“The idea that Michalowski initiated this to try to derail or extort money out of Rutherford is absurd,” she said.
The investigation, which Rutherford insisted was an independent review, was conducted by Ron Braver & Associates. The firm concluded that interviews, travel vouchers and text messages didn’t corroborate Michalowski’s claims that he endured Rutherford’s unwanted sexual advances from 2011 to 2013, and that he was passed over for promotions or raises as a result.
“It is my opinion that Mr. Michalowski was not retaliated against for not acquiescing to alleged sexual or political pressures,” the report concluded. “It is my opinion, based on the evidence reviewed, that rumors that Mr. Michalowski may be let go from the treasurer’s office after the primary elections play a role in coming forward with these serious allegations and the allegations appear to be released to influence his current election.”READ MORE: Good Samaritan's Car Stolen As He Helps Victims Of Three-Car Crash
Although taxpayers paid $27,000 for the investigation and an earlier inquiry commissioned by Rutherford, the results weren’t released. Rutherford was hamstrung by the federal lawsuit. He and his successor, Democrat Michael Frerichs — who made a campaign promise to disclose the report — subsequently denied requests under the Freedom of Information Act from the AP and other news organizations.
Michalowski’s lawsuit is pending in federal court in Chicago. After the judge dismissed other claims, including the allegation of coercion to do political work on the state timeclock, Michalowski filed a fresh complaint last month alleging sexual harassment against Rutherford and four others.
Michalowski cites six instances in which he alleges Rutherford made unwanted sexual advances or comments from 2011 to 2013, including an overnight stay at the treasurer’s Chenoa home in which Michalowski claims his host entered his bedroom and touched him sexually. When he complained to his superiors, Michalowski claims he was labeled a troublemaker and passed over for promotions and salary raises.
But Braver found that travel vouchers Michalowski submitted for the April 2011 Chenoa incident show that Michalowski drove from his Chicago home to pick Rutherford up in Pontiac, went back to Chicago, returned the treasurer to Pontiac in mid-afternoon and was back in Chicago by 4 p.m. Braver interviewed 16 Rutherford staffers — none of whom is named in the report — and found that while some reported Rutherford occasionally made “uncomfortable” but unspecified remarks, none saw Rutherford act inappropriately toward Michalowski.
Kurtz’s law firm also represents three other alleged Rutherford victims in a separate lawsuit who allege Rutherford fired them in July 2014, in retaliation for cooperating with Braver investigators.MORE NEWS: Security Guard Shoots Man Who Pulled Gun When Asked To Pay For Snacks At Englewood Gas Station
(TM and © Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)