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Dan Rutherford political troubles, former employee files sexual harassment suit

Dan Rutherford, Illinois State Treasurer and a Republican candidate for governor of Illinois, is in deep political trouble as a former employee of Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford has filed a civil lawsuit Monday. Rutherford held a press conference yesterday in response to the lawsuit, reported NBC 5 News.

A former employee of Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford, Edmund Michalowski, 43, filed a civil lawsuit Monday against the GOP candidate for governor, alleging sexual harassment, but Rutherford says the claims are absolutely false.
(Dan Rutherford file photo)

The former employee, Edmund Michalowski, 43, alleges in the suit that Rutherford subjected him to a "long-standing pattern of discrimination based upon his sex" from April 2011 to December 2013 that included grabbing at Michalowski's genitals and repeatedly "hitting on" him.

Rich Miller's Capitol Fax views it as "An examination of the he said/he said." Miller believes there may be a witness: In December 2013, Rutherford allegedly went over to Michalowski at an office party, rubbed his shoulders and said to him, "You need a full body massage."

"That was creepy," said another person who witnessed what happened, according to the lawsuit.

However, Rutherford stands firm that the claims by Michalowski "are absolutely false."

He also claims Rutherford made offensive remarks to him and other male employees, and was behind an inappropriate text message through a staffer that asked him to wear a "tank top" to an event. Michalowski also claims Rutherford forced him to "engage in outside political activity for the benefit of the Rutherford Committee and the Romney campaign during his working hours."

Rutherford issued a press release yesterday and gave in detail why he is arguing the charges are false:

To our knowledge, there are no witnesses to three alleged incidents of harassment—one of which allegedly took place at the treasurer’s home on April 2, 2011, and the other two at events outside the office in August 2011 and August 2012. The alleged incidents in December 2013 were only raised in the complaint filed today, and the treasurer’s office had not been previously informed of any harassment in 2013. In any event, Treasurer Rutherford strongly denies any inappropriate conduct, regardless of the date.

State records reviewed by the treasurer’s office bear no resemblance to Michalowski’s allegations. For instance, Michalowski claims that he was harassed at “an overnight retreat” at the Treasurer’s home in Chenoa on April 2, 2011. However, a travel voucher submitted and signed by Michalowski for the date of April 2, 2011 shows he traveled home from Pontiac (not Chenoa) at 2 in the afternoon. Most importantly, contrary to his claim that he planned to stay the night and that he was harassed in the evening, the voucher indicates Michalowski returned to his residence in Chicago by 4 in the afternoon that day. An email written by Michalowski to another co-worker confirms that he traveled to Pontiac and returned home the same day.

Details such as a July 24, 2011 text from a staffer that the treasurer asked that Michalowski wear a “tank top” are deliberately taken out of context. Michalowski provided to the treasurer’s office what he claims to be the entire string of texts, which shows that Michalowski was engaging in light-hearted conversation with the staffer about appropriate dress.

Further, contrary to his claims, Michalowski did not report any incidents of misconduct to his supervisor or through the Equal Employment Opportunity process, nor did anyone else report any type of misconduct on claims that are 2 and 3 years old. Chief of Staff Kyle Ham vehemently denies that any report was made to him about this conduct.

Rutherford's chief of staff Kyle Ham is also named in the suit. Michalowski says when he took his complaints to Ham, he was told, "at least we have job security," and "you’re his friend, you talk to him."

Michalowski states in the suit that he served as Rutherford's deputy director of community affairs and marketing from 2011 to February 2014, when he resigned.

Attorney Christine Svenson filed the suit Monday afternoon. Last week she indicated others may file with her client, but there was no word today if that’s the case.


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Rich Miller's Capitol Fax

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