As sexual harassment allegations sweep across the nation, the Illinois legislature is now under fire for a lack of reporting procedures after a staffing vacancy allowed dozens of complaints, not necessarily sexual in nature, to go nowhere.
Current law requires a Legislative Inspector General to elevate a complaint into an open case. Since Illinois has failed to hire one, a backlog of 27 cases have simply sat in a binder.
UPDATE: An Inspector General was named on Nov. 4.
Some lawmakers are furious that these complaints have gone unanswered due to "a technicality."
Republican Senator Karen McConnaughay, one of two women on the ethics commission, says she first learned of the complaints on Wednesday. She says someone is "hiding behind a game of semantics."
“Who made the decision that the commission would be told that there are 'no cases', technically correct, but at the same time not disclose that you have 27 complaints that are backed up because you have no Inspector General?”
Senator Terry Link, a Democrat and the current chairman of the commission, says all members should have known the procedures, and this information would have been available if members were asking the right questions. He says he’s been advocating for an IG for a year.
“I think the commission itself is being blown out of proportion and it kind of upsets me in the sense that we’ve been a very conscientious commission. We take our jobs seriously. I think we do what’s supposed to be the right thing.”
Senator McConnaughay is calling for emergency changes to the reporting procedures which would allow members of the commission to look further into the complaints until an IG is hired. She is also working on legislation that would completely restructure the process by removing input from the General Assembly altogether.
Currently, the ethics commission is made up of eight appointed lawmakers, six men and two women, who oversee any ethical complaints. They are required to meet monthly, but do cancel meetings if there is "no business." Senator Link says the commission will meet next week and is hopeful they will hire an IG soon.