Ives seeks to bolster accusers’ rights in harassment cases
Published by the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin on March 07, 2018
By Rebecca Anzel
Law Bulletin correspondent
SPRINGFIELD — Republican gubernatorial challenger Jeanne Ives called for a vote on a proposed measure guaranteeing rights to people making claims of sexual harassment.
Her demand came the same day House Speaker Michael J. Madigan made his latest in a string of statements fighting allegations his office does not take sexual assault complaints seriously enough.
“We want this done now,” Ives said. “We don’t want this to sit until the end of May. We want this bill out on the floor and operable immediately.”
Ives appeared at a news conference alongside Denise Rotheimer, a victims’ rights advocate who helped draft the legislation after coming forward with harassment allegations against Sen. Ira Silverstein in November.
Rotheimer said at the time she filed a complaint with the unfilled Office of Legislative Inspector General a year earlier. The position was soon filled and work started on a 27-complaint backlog.
“Currently, we have no rights,” Rotheimer said. “We need to make this process transparent. We need to make it fair and as just as possible because complaints like mine are very personal.”
The legislation, House Bill 4840, spells out ways a person filing a complaint against a state official or employee can be more involved in the investigation process.
The bill has been held in the House Rules Committee — the first stage toward passage — for three weeks.
Rotheimer said the measure’s 11 rights, which range from receiving notification of a complaint’s receipt to permission to attend meetings held about that complaint, are a direct result of learning accusers of sexual harassment are not given the same rights afforded to those in some criminal and civil proceedings.
Silverstein denied Rotheimer’s allegations. A 25-page report compiled by newly appointed Legislative Inspector General Julie B. Porter, formerly of Salvatore, Prescott & Porter PLLC in Evanston, did not find his actions amounted to harassment.
The bill dictates that from the beginning, complainants would have to be informed of their rights, have the investigation process explained to them and be permitted to have a self-funded attorney or advocate present at all meetings.
During the investigation, accusers could review an investigator’s summary of evidence to ensure all available materials and facts are included and make corrections as needed. They could also submit a victim impact statement and testify at a hearing if they choose.
And after the investigation is concluded, complainants would be entitled to receive a copy of the final report.
Ives said she hopes the bill, which she called “common-sense legislation,” will be considered by the House Sexual Discrimination and Harassment Task Force. The group comprises of eight lawmakers from both parties who meet once a month to explore ways to prevent sexual harassment and discrimination.
She also called for the release of the full list of complaints filed before Porter was appointed.
“It’s been three years plus that some of these complaints have sat, and that’s been a couple different election cycles now,” Ives said. “Voters deserve to know what these complaints are and who they’re against because the process was never put in place to hear these complaints in a timely manner.”
The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin originally published this piece online here.