SPRINGFIELD (Heartland Newsfeed) — A victims rights advocate whose allegations of sexual harassment against a state senator have been all but dismissed by the state’s legislative inspector general had a lot of questions today for a state representative about an alleged lack of public scrutiny and due process.
Mothers on a Mission to Stop Violence founder Denise Rotheimer wanted to know why the redacted report released this month by Julie Porter, the Illinois General Assembly’s legislative inspector general, concentrated only on Rotheimer’s complaint against Sen. Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago).
“Why is it that her report on my complaint is the only one that gets to be published and made known publicly?” Rotheimer wrote today in an email to Rep. Sara Wojcicki Jimenez (R-Leland Grove). “The legislative ethic commission gave Porter approval to do so even though they did not have jurisdiction over the complaint. How is it that the legislative inspector general which is required by law to be independent requires the approval of the legislative ethics commission for the LEC to investigate complaints and then publish finding from an investigation that is not within their jurisdiction.”
Rotheimer apparently met Jimenez on Monday, the same day as her press conference at the state Capitol about sexual harassment. During that press conference, Rotheimer said the LIG report is incomplete, contradictory and full of errors and that there should be outraged over the lack of accountability in the ethics complaints.
Porter was hurriedly named to head the long-vacant LIG in the fall after Rotheimer’s renewed allegations that Silverstein, then state Senate majority caucus whip, had sexually harassed her while she was trying to lobby for legislation to help crime victims pay for legal costs. Her accusations were not new; she had filed them about a year prior, but her testimony came soon after allegations against Hollywood film mogul Harvey Weinstein surfaced and public officials nationwide felt pressure to respond.
Silverstein lost his position as majority caucus whip; he was replaced by the current Sen. Iris Martinez (D-Chicago). Silverstein held onto his Senate seat, despite considerable pressure to resign.
A few weeks after her appointment, Porter announced she would investigate 10 of the 27 ethics complaints that had been ignored since 2015 and reportedly told Rotheimer to turn over unfettered access to her cellphone and a social media account. This month, Porter’s office released a report that all but cleared Silverstein of Rotheimer’s allegations.
Rotheimer, in her email to Jimenez, questioned the report’s findings.
“How is it that the findings in the complaints that are investigated and fall within the jurisdiction of the LEC are not published or made public when there is a split vote?” Rotheimer asked in her email. “The task force is charged with a duty to reform the process yet no one on the LEC has been asked to testify on the process or to give their input on how to reform the process. Why have they not been invited to testify at any of the hearings? Why hasn’t the former LIG been invited to testify at any of the hearings?”
Rotheimer called into question “the handling of these complaints by those who have betrayed the public’s trust by not following the law themselves and leaving these complaints to sit on a shelf for three years collecting dust? How does the task force propose to ensure this will not happen again, if it does not address the issues that led to the three year vacancy?”
Rotheimer also asked why the task force’s report isn’t scheduled to be issued until the end of this year, after the General election.
“How does this delay help reform the system, which needs major reform–now?” Rotheimer asked.
“Lastly, all the findings from complaints should be published because the accuser’s name – if the accuser chooses will be redacted unless she waives confidentiality like me. At least the public will know how many complaints were sex harassment, discrimination, etc. The task force has asked for these stats from every state and governmental agencies that testified at these hearings. Why not hold the legislature to the same standard and allow the people of the state to know the stats in the general assembly?”
Rotheimer noted, in closing her email, that “unless an accuser or complainant has due process he or she does not have a right to be heard.
“Due process is the right to be heard. In my situation, yes, Porter heard from me but she did not establish in her record a full account of all my witnesses or evidence and therefore she in fact silenced me to portray a false narrative that was rife with victim blaming. Her report does not and will not encourage others to come forward and she could have arrived at her conclusion without employing the tactics of victim blaming throughout her report. It is vital that accusers are afforded due process via judicial review, because only then can she or he be afforded with a right to be heard.”
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