SPRINGFIELD (Illinois News Network) — A high-ranking Democrat resigned from several leadership positions Thursday after being publicly accused of harassment, inappropriate behavior and retaliation by a former medical cannabis advocate.
State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) resigned from his position as House Deputy Majority Leader and left his spot on the Legislative Ethics Commission, which investigates wrongdoing by lawmakers, less than 24 hours after successfully pushing for approval of the federal Equal Rights Amendment. Lang called the allegations “absurd” and said he would seek another term in November at a news conference where he was surrounded by women lawmakers and lobbyists who attested to his good character.
Former medical cannabis advocate Maryann Loncar told reporters earlier Thursday afternoon at her own news conference that Lang, a close ally of powerful House Speaker Michael Madigan, verbally abused her, made unwanted advances and then retaliated against her.
Loncar said Lang, among other things, once placed his hand on her lower back below her underwear line and asked, “Does your husband know how lucky he is to have a wife like you?” She also said the Skokie Democrat called her one evening, telling her, “I would have dinner with you if you weren’t with your husband.”
When Loncar rebuffed Lang’s advances, she said Lang told her “to be careful.” Loncar said there are many witnesses to Lang’s inappropriate behavior.
“I was harassed. I was intimidated,” Loncar said. “I was humiliated and blackballed.”
Lang said he requested special Legislative Inspector General Julie Porter to look into the claims. The legislative inspector general must get permission from the Legislative Ethics Commission, of which Lang was a member until his resignation Thursday, to investigate.
During her news conference, Loncar made reference to an alleged bribe offer to Lang from businessmen seeking medical marijuana licenses. She said having that knowledge of the alleged bribe made her fear for her life. When asked why she hadn’t gone to the authorities about the potential crime, she said she was waiting for the right time but had the details journaled. She said others were also privy to the bribe offer.
There are, however, reports of associates of Lang’s getting their foot in the door to acquire a number of the few licenses that were to be released. CBS St. Louis reported in 2014 that Sam Borek, Lang’s college roommate, reserved at least three-dozen marijuana-related business names.
At his own news conference, Lang dismissed the the claims.
“This is nothing,” he said. “The allegations are absurd. I’m running in November.”
State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) told reporters about Lang’s good character, but said the process for handling such complaints needs to change.
“The allegations we’ve heard today are very serious,” she said. “Hopefully the process will begin now.”
Feigenholtz was one of several Democratic women to stand behind Lang at his news conference.
At least one lawmaker took exception with Democrat lawmakers coming to bat for Lang before any investigation.
“This is how a culture of sexual harassment is perpetuated: turning a blind eye or standing by men even when they’re wrong,” said Rep. Avery Bourne (R-Raymond). “These allegations came out hours ago – demand an investigation. If he’s right, we’ll know. If he’s wrong, call it out and work to change the culture.”
Alaina Hampton, a former Madigan campaign worker who accused the House speaker of covering up her own harassment allegations against one of his lieutenants, said Lang’s news conference “was a perfect example of why victims don’t come forward.”
Lang blasted Loncar as a disgruntled “profiteer” who was retaliating against him after her business failed to get a marijuana dispensary license. Loncar, who was president of Mother Earth Holistic Health and CEO of Patient’s Health Center, planned marijuana dispensaries that never got state approval.
While Lang said he initiated an investigation by the Legislative Inspector General into Loncar’s accusations, Loncar said she would not cooperate because she felt Porter’s investigation would likely only serve to vindicate Lang.
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