CHICAGO (CBS) — A state lawmaker from St. Charles is working on a new ethics measure after learning recently she had been misled about whether the Legislative Ethics Commission, upon which she sits, is investigating any complaints against state legislators or their staffs.
State Sen. Karen McConnaughay was surprised to learn earlier this week that a woman had filed a sexual harassment complaint against Senator Ira Silverstein.
McConnaughay said she had been told by the Legislative Ethics Commission staff that there were no complaints being investigated.
But, she said, it turns out that the complaint had been filed and was not being investigated. And she said there were 26 other complaints of various kinds also just sitting in files.
McConnaughay said the Inspector General’s position has been vacant for a couple of years with no person confirmed to fill it to begin investigating those 27 complaints.
“There is a game of semantics being played, conveniently, to hide the fact that there were 27 various types of complaints that were filed and nothing has been done about that over the last two years.
“It’s become very, very clear through this fiasco that the Illinois General Assembly is incapable of policing itself,” she said.
She said it’s “outrageous” and part of “a sickening culture in Springfield” that must be changed.
Tom Homer, the last inspector general, says any complaint filed about a transgression that happened more than one year ago is beyond the statute of limitations. Homer, meanwhile, thinks the system needs improvement.
“In many respects, I think it’s a toothless tiger, mainly because of the secrecy that’s required. There’s no transparency,” Homer tells CBS 2.
McConnaughay said she and other female legislators are working on a bill to revamp the way the state deals with complaints – sexual harassment and otherwise – when they are made against lawmakers, their staffs or lobbyists.
“The pressure is on us to do something that is really meaningful and shame on us, shame on us, if we can’t straighten up our own house,” she said.
What’s needed, she said, is a “major overhaul of our ethics laws” that people can trust.
McConnaughay said is disappointed that she allowed herself to be convinced that there were “no complaints in the hopper.” She said she and other commission members should have asked more questions.