Wading through an ethics backlog
Only 10 of the backlogged cases before the Legislative Inspector General warrant further investigation, the Legislative Ethics Commission reported to state lawmakers.
In a letter posted on the Inspector General’s website, the commission reported on the status of 27 ethics complaints pending when Special Legislative Inspector General Julie Porter took over on
“Based upon her review of these written requests, LIG Porter has determined that 10 requests involve matters that appear to be within the jurisdiction of the office and warrant further consideration,” the commission’s letter said.
The letter emphasized that this was based only on a preliminary review of the complaints.
“She still could conclude in some instances that further investigation is moot or otherwise inappropriate for investigation, or that the matter may more appropriately be referred elsewhere,” the letter said.
Of the other 17 complaints, Porter determined that 13 “clearly are not within the jurisdiction of the Office of Legislative Inspector General.”
One other complaint was too vague to be investigated, while another was essentially withdrawn by the person who made it.
However, the letter also said “two involve matters where the subject of the complaint is no longer a member of the General Assembly, thus no longer under the jurisdiction of the LIG.”
The identities of those against whom complaints are filed are not disclosed, even to the eight lawmakers who serve on the Legislative Ethics Commission.
The backlog of complaints built up during a nearly 2-year period when there was no inspector general appointed who could investigate the complaints. The issue came to light during the fall when it was revealed a sexual harassment complaint had been filed against Sen. Ira Silverstein, D-Chicago, that sat unresolved for nearly a year because the inspector general’s post was vacant.
Porter, a former federal prosecutor in Chicago, was unanimously approved by the ethics commission.
Sen. Karen McConnaughay, R-St. Charles, said she’s been impressed with Porter’s work so far.
“It appears to me she is acting very responsibly and very thoroughly,” McConnaughay said. “I think it’s important we all allow her to do her job.”
At the same time, she said the update given by Porter about the complaint backlog shows the Legislature needs to review the structure of the legislative ethics process.
Specifically, she said, the former lawmaker who was the subject of two complaints, but who will not be investigated because he or she is no longer in the General Assembly.
McConnaughay said the law should be reviewed to allow investigations of actions that occurred while a person was in the Legislature.
“I would like to understand what was the thought behind it in the first place. What were the reasons given for why you wouldn’t investigate somebody once they left,” she said.
“There’s an injured party regardless. Due process still should exist.”