- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 20, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Newly inaugurated Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs refused Tuesday to release a report about sexual harassment allegations against his predecessor, pointing to ongoing legal action.

Frerichs, a Democrat and former state senator who said during his campaign that he wanted to release the investigation into the charges against ex-Treasurer Dan Rutherford, denied a request from The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act filed Jan. 12, the day he took office.

In a letter to the AP, FOIA officer G. Allen Mayer said Attorney General Lisa Madigan, a Democrat, had “instructed” the treasurer not to disclose the findings because Madigan’s office is defending Rutherford against a former employee’s federal lawsuit.

Rutherford, whose campaign for governor tanked after the allegations of unwanted sexual advances and forced campaign work on state time from Edmund Michalowski, initially denied a FOIA request from the AP and other news media organizations in February 2014 for the review by the Chicago investigative firm Ron Braver & Associates.

Frerichs spokeswoman Paris Ervin pledged that, when court action concludes, Frerichs will work to “quickly get the investigative report released.”

“Releasing the Braver report is important. It must be done,” Ervin said. “Treasurer Frerichs remains committed to transparency and delivering on his promise to release the report but respects the attorney general’s need to handle the litigation appropriately.”

Rutherford, a popular Chenoa legislator for 17 years before winning the 2010 treasurer’s race, initially blocked FOIA requests from the AP and other news agencies for the Braver report at the time Michalowski’s allegations became public last winter. The AP refiled it with Frerichs’ office last week during a reception celebrating his inauguration earlier that day.

Frerichs also released a letter Tuesday from Madigan’s public access counselor, who is supposed to review appeals of FOIA requests denied by public bodies. It stated that Rutherford had properly withheld the report under exemptions to the public access law. The letter was written in response to appeals from WBBM-TV in Chicago, the Chicago Sun-Times and a citizen.

Michalowski’s lawsuit claims that Rutherford repeatedly harassed him sexually and pushed him to do campaign work on the state clock.

In a news conference last January, Rutherford denied the assertions. He said an internal probe had cleared him. But his campaign deflated, and he finished last in a four-way GOP primary won by eventual Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Rutherford revealed last winter that two reviews, including Braver’s, had cost $27,000, but would not disclose Braver’s detailed billings. Madigan’s public access counselor did find Tuesday that Rutherford was wrong to not disclose those, and Frerichs released them.

Braver worked from Feb. 3 to Feb. 10 - the day Michalowski filed his lawsuit, the billings show. He interviewed 16 people, including Rutherford on Feb. 5.

Also questioned were senior staff members Ashvin Lad, Patrick Carlson and George Daglas, who were fired in July after the inspector general for the treasurer’s office determined they had engaged in misconduct.


Associated Press writer Kerry Lester contributed to this report.


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

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