Sexual Harassment Suit Filed Against Rutherford
WSIL-- State Treasurer Dan Rutherford, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor, was slapped with a sexual harrassment lawsuit Monday morning.
In the suit, former treasurer's office employee Ed Michalowski alleges Rutherford made sexual advances toward him multiple times.
Rutherford held a news conference adamantly denying all the claims. He says the accusations are false and motivated by money, since Michalowski recently declared bankruptcy. With the Illinois primary election just more than a month away, there are a lot of questions about who's telling the truth.
The 15-page lawsuit Michalowski says the first sexual harassment incident happened in April of 2011, at a retreat in Rutherford's home. He says Rutherford entered his bedroom and grabbed at his genital area, before Michalowski forced him off.
"I strongly deny any, any inappropriate conduct, regardless of the date," Rutherford emphasized.
The treasurer provided a travel voucher, which he says shows Michalowski did not spend the night.
Michalowski's suit goes on to cite a number of other examples, like a text exchange in July of 2011. He says a Rutherford staff member sent this message, "The treasurer specifically asked you wear a tank top... I'm just a messenger."
Rutherford responded with what he says is the full text exchange, which shows the comment was a joke and taken out of context in a longer conversation.
"It was banter between two employees on a Saturday morning," Rutherford explained.
He says his office conducted an internal investigation, which found no wrongdoing. Rutherford has also asked an independent investigator to look into the claims. However, he believes it's all been incited by his political rival.
"You look at the different actions that are taking place out there to try to take down all the opponents to Bruce Rauner, and there's a number of 'em going on," added Rutherford.
David Yepsen with the Paul Simon Institute says Rutherford was viewed as the alternative to businessman Bruce Rauner in a four man Republican governor's race.
"This could be motivated by all kinds of things. Politics, money, personal spite; It doesn't matter. It's a very damaging charge," Yepsen said.
He says the political damage may be too much to overcome.
"It's such a stain, such a black eye that there's not really time to get it laundered out before the election," conceded Yepsen.
Michalowski names Rutherford's chief of staff Kyle Ham in the lawsuit as well, claiming Ham dismissed his harassment claims. Michalowski also says Rutherford forced him to do campaign work while on the clock as a state employee.
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