- Associated Press - Friday, February 21, 2014

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford has spent nearly $27,000 in taxpayers’ money on investigations into allegations against him that include political coercion and sexual harassment, documents released Friday show.

But Rutherford’s lawyer refused to release either of two investigations that the Republican candidate for governor had commissioned even before a former employee sued him in federal court.

Edmund Michalowski claims in the lawsuit that Rutherford repeatedly harassed him sexually and pushed him to do campaign work on state time. Rutherford denies the claims.

Rutherford, who squares off against three other GOP hopefuls in the March 18 primary, promised in a dramatic news conference Jan. 31 - before Michalowski’s accusations were known by the public - that he would ask independent investigators to review the matter and make their findings known.

That team, Ron Braver & Associates of Chicago, billed the office $18,123 for its investigation. Rutherford’s office also released an invoice from the law firm of Brown, Hay & Stephens for $8,820 for work done on an initial, internal review in the week leading up to the news conference that Rutherford said cleared him of wrongdoing.

“I would very much like for them (taxpayers) to see it,” Rutherford said Tuesday during a debate in Springfield. “I’m working it through and I want to get it out there.”

But not on Friday, invoking exemptions under the FOIA, Rutherford’s general counsel, Neil Olson, refused to release either of the reports, saying the internal review was protected by attorney-client confidentiality and the Braver report is exempt as “materials prepared or compiled by or for a public body in anticipation of” a lawsuit.

“Politically, he wants to release it and he should, he promised he would,” said David Yepsen, director of Southern Illinois University’s Paul Simon Public Policy Institute. “But from the time he says that, to the time the lawyers get involved, the lawyers say no.”

Yepsen said even if Rutherford did release it, it does him no good - a damaging report would hurt him politically and a report exonerating him would be dismissed as a whitewash. And it’s highly unlikely there will be any resolution in federal court before Rutherford faces voters in less than a month.

Editorial pages have called on Rutherford to release the report’s findings.

Rutherford and the Braver firm initially signed a contract capping expenses at $10,000, but it was amended Feb. 10 - the day Michalowski filed suit - to allow for spending up to $19,999.

The description of the work done by Braver and the law firm in the earlier probe has been redacted, so only hours and monetary totals are seen.

Ron Braver charged $250 an hour for 62.5 hours and a $185-an-hour associate logged 13.5 hours.

Brown, Hay & Stephens billed $8,800 for 42 hours.


Associated Press writer Kerry Lester contributed to this report.


Contact John O’Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor

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