- Associated Press - Thursday, May 19, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - An investigator hired by then-state Treasurer Dan Rutherford to review a former employee’s allegations of sexual harassment by the one-time gubernatorial hopeful found no evidence of harassment or retaliation, according to a copy of the review obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday.

The investigation, which Rutherford insisted was an independent review, was conducted by a Chicago-based firm that concluded interviews, travel vouchers and text messages didn’t corroborate Edmund Michalowski’s claims that he endured Rutherford’s unwanted sexual advances from 2011 to 2013, and that he was passed over for promotions or raises as a result.

Michalowski filed a federal lawsuit outlining his allegations in February 2014, two weeks after Rutherford publicly said a former employee had demanded $300,000 to stymie legal action for his alleged “misconduct.” Rutherford ordered the review to clear his name, but the lawsuit dashed his hopes of winning the Republican nomination for governor that March.

Michalowski’s attorney, Dana Kurtz, condemned the report Thursday, saying it “leaves out substantial information.” She said her client sued because he and other young men were being harassed by Rutherford, and he wanted it to stop.

“The idea that Michalowski initiated this to try to derail or extort money out of Rutherford is absurd,” she said.

Compiled by Ron Braver & Associates, the reported dated Feb. 12, 2014 concluded that “Michalowski was not retaliated against for not acquiescing to alleged sexual or political pressures.” It also said that based on the evidence reviewed, “rumors that Mr. Michalowski may be let go from the treasurer’s office after the primary elections play a role in coming forward with these serious allegations and the allegations appear to be released to influence his current election.”

Although taxpayers paid $27,000 for the investigation and an earlier Rutherford-commissioned inquiry, the results remained secret. Attorney General Lisa Madigan cited the lawsuit when she advised Rutherford and his successor, Democratic Treasurer Michael Frerichs, not to release the report.

Frerichs - who made a 2014 campaign promise to reveal the report - denied an AP request under the Freedom of Information Act last year, but he said Thursday’s disclosure resulted from an agreement with Madigan.

“Mr. Rutherford is pleased that the report is now public, and we look forward to addressing these fabricated allegations in court,” said his attorney, Daniel T. Fahner. He noted the report “suggests that the allegations were driven by political agendas and personal desperation.”

Kurtz said the report is short on facts and nearly completely reliant on unnamed witnesses.

“Numerous witnesses will come forward to support the allegations of Michalowski,” Kurtz said.

Michalowski’s lawsuit is pending in Chicago. A judge dismissed some claims, including the allegation of coercion to do political work on the state timeclock. Michalowski filed a fresh complaint last month alleging sexual harassment against Rutherford, two other ex-staffers and Rutherford’s campaign committee.

Michalowski cites six instances in which he alleges Rutherford made unwanted sexual advances or comments, including an overnight stay in April 2011 at the treasurer’s Chenoa home. Michalowski said his host entered his bedroom and touched him sexually. When he complained to his superiors about that and other incidents, Michalowski said he was labeled a troublemaker and passed over for promotions.

The report notes that Michalowski’s travel voucher for that day indicates he traveled with Rutherford, picking up the treasurer in Pontiac, but was back in Chicago by 4 p.m. However, Kurtz said Michalowski was doing political work for Rutherford that evening, which a state travel voucher wouldn’t reflect.

Braver interviewed 16 Rutherford staffers - none of them identified - and found that while some reported Rutherford occasionally made “uncomfortable” but unspecified remarks or gestures, they didn’t feel harassed or saw Rutherford act inappropriately toward Michalowski.

Kurtz also represents three other alleged Rutherford victims in a separate lawsuit alleging Rutherford fired them in July 2014 for cooperating with Braver investigators.


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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