Monday, February 10, 2014

Former Aide To Illinois GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Files Federal Lawsuit Alleging Sexual Harassment

Ed Michalowski left has accused state Treasurer Dan Rutherford sexual harassment federal lawsuit filed Monday.
Dan Rutherford (left) and Ed Michalowski (right)
A 43-year old former top assistant to Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford, a candidate this year for the GOP nomination for governor, has filed a federal lawsuit against his former boss and his chief of staff accusing Rutherford of sexual harassment and forcing him and other state employees in his office to perform political work on state time according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Ed Michalowski, who until this past week served as Director of Community Affairs & Marketing for the Illinois Treasurer's Office, alleges that  Rutherford once entered his bedroom while on a staff retreat with him and grabbed his genitals before he forced him off of him and fled the room. When Michalowski reported the allegations to Rutherford's chief of staff, he responded according to the complaint: “Well, at least we have job security.”

The Sun-Times' Natasha Korecki, who broke this story, points out the Michalowski is a Democrat who once sought election as a Democrat judge in Cook County. Michalowski later served as general counsel to Secretary of State Jesse White, also a Democrat. After leaving Rutherford's office last week, he joined the Cook County Recorder of Deeds Office, which is also run by a Democrat. Michalowski's attorney, Christine Svenson, also has close ties to one of Rutherford's GOP primary opponents, Chicago businessman Bruce Rauner, who is a close friend of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel despite being a Republican.

Before Michalowski filed his lawsuit in federal court today, Rutherford held a press conference more than a week ago charging that his claims were engineered by Rauner's campaign. Rutherford claims that Michalowski, through his attorney, demanded a $300,000 settlement from him, which he says is motivated, in part, due to financial troubles Michalowski and his wife have encountered over the past year. A bank has filed for foreclosure on their home and a divorce filing prompted the couple to file for bankruptcy.

In addition to the charge that Rutherford groped him while he was in bed in 2011, he claims that he later approached him in a Springfield bar and demanded that he go home with him. “If you go home with me you can have anything you want in the office,” Michalowski's complaint reads. Michalowski's complaint alleges that Rutherford repeatedly made unwanted sexual advances to him and other male members of his staff. The complaint references another male employee, Joshua Lanning, a traveling companion who Rutherford supposedly said had the worst job in his office. The Gawker reported that Lanning had accompanied Rutherford on business trips overseas to Israel, China, Korea and a vacation to Australia. For the record, the 58-year old Rutherford, who has never been married, has publicly stated his opposition to legal recognition of same-sex marriages.

His complaint further alleges that Rutherford demanded that he contact his past clients and solicit them for contributions to his gubernatorial campaign and the campaign of presidential candidate Mitt Romney, whose Illinois campaign Rutherford chaired. Michalowski earned $99,000 a year working in the State Treasurer's Office, a salary that was reduced to $97,000 in 2013. A copy of Michalowski's complaint can be accessed here.

UPDATE: Illinois Review blog has Rutherford's reaction to the complaint here, along with documents it says supports it contentions, which can be found here.

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