With a wave of harassment accusations in Springfield, lawmakers want to ensure their colleagues accused of misconduct aren’t bailed out by Illinois taxpayers.
A couple U.S. congressmen have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to staffers accusing them of sexual misconduct. To make matters worse, the payouts were done in secret via the “Office of Compliance.” Texas Republican Blake Farenthold reportedly gave a staffer $84,000 to settle a harassment complaint. Democrat Alcee Hastings of Florida cost taxpayers $220,000 to settle his alleged harassment claim. Both are still in office.
State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, introduced a bill Wednesday that would forbid the practice in Springfield.
“I want to make sure that no taxpayer money is ever spent to settle sexual harassment claims against members of the General Assembly,” McSweeney said. “We have secret payoffs by Democrat and Republican members of Congress. We need to make sure that doesn’t happen here.”
State Sen. Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park, agreed.
“The money sent by taxpayers is meant to pay for government, not lawsuits,” Cullerton, who plans to cosponsor the legislation, said.
Neither lawmaker has found any instance of payouts happening in Illinois.
State lawmakers have been anonymously accused by a number of women as well as men of sexual misconduct. An October letter signed by hundreds of women accused Illinois lawmakers and others in power under the dome of sexual misconduct ranging from inappropriate comments to outright sexual advancements.
“Misogyny is alive and well in this industry,” the letter said.
Only state Sen. Ira Silverstein, D-Chicago, has been publicly accused.
In the wake of the scandal, a task force was created to review and toughen state policies and procedures surrounding harassment.