- Associated Press - Thursday, February 18, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - A former employee of the state treasurer’s office, whose sexual harassment lawsuit during the 2014 campaign for Illinois governor immolated Dan Rutherford’s political aspirations, cannot prove a racketeering claim that the Republican ran his government office as a campaign operation, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

The order by Judge Joan Lefkow left untouched Edmund Michalowski’s allegation that Rutherford sexually harassed him for several years after he was hired in 2010. But Lefkow threw out Michalowski’s assertion that Rutherford and top aides Kyle Ham and Curt Conrad forced Michalowski to do political work on state time.

Michalowski’s lawyer did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Rutherford’s lawyer, Dan Fahner, said his client was pleased and is eager to address the sexual harassment claims and demonstrate “that any related allegations are without merit.”

A longtime lawmaker who was elected treasurer in 2010, Rutherford was the leading rival in 2014 to the bid by now-Gov. Bruce Rauner for the GOP nomination. Then Rutherford announced at a dramatic news conference that he had rejected a former employee’s attempt to scuttle a lawsuit for a $300,000 settlement. The lawsuit followed weeks later.

Michalowksi has cited six specific incidents in which he claims Rutherford made unwanted sexual advances. In one, Michalowski claims that when he stayed overnight at Rutherford’s Chenoa home after a staff meeting, Rutherford entered his room and touched him in a sexual manner. He claims that when he rebuffed other advances, he was labeled a “troublemaker” and denied raises and promotions.

Rutherford conducted internal investigations into Michalowski’s claims but rejected requests from The Associated Press and others to disclose them under the Freedom of Information Act. Democrat Michael Frerichs, who succeeded Rutherford as treasurer in January 2015, took the same course.

Frerichs relied on an opinion from Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s public access counselor, responding to FOIA appeals from the Chicago Sun-Times, WBBM-TV in Chicago, and a citizen, that the reports could be withheld from taxpayers.

Madigan’s office has yet to answer a similar appeal filed by the AP in March 2014.

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Contact Political Writer John O’Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor . His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/john-oconnor .


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