A committee nominated a retired judge to handle complaints against state lawmakers after a number of high-profile harassment cases emerged while the post was vacant.
The Illinois legislature has been hit over the past 14 months with allegations of harassment and intimidation toward employees, lobbyists and others who work under the dome in Springfield.
The Legislative Inspector General’s Office, the body meant to field complaints against lawmakers, had been vacant for several years. Legislative leaders picked an interim legislative inspector general in late 2017 when it was revealed that more than two dozen complaints against lawmakers were sitting on a shelf, unattended because the position went unfilled.
Legislative Ethics Commission Chairwoman state Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Raymond, said after reviewing 20 applications, a selection committee winnowed the list of names down. A bipartisan panel of lawmakers is now recommending retired Judge Carol Pope to be the next Legislative Inspector General.
“Folks in central Illinois might be familiar with her,” Bourne said. “She served as state’s attorney and a former judge and has a long record of being involved in judicial ethics which we thought was important.”
Bourne said Pope also has a record crafting best practices in dealing with workplace sexual harassment.
Pope previously served seven years as Menard County state’s attorney, Circuit Court judge for 17 years, and as appellate justice in the Fourth Appellate District for nine years. She serves as a member of the Illinois Judicial Ethics Committee, which provides advice on ethics to judges throughout Illinois.
Bourne said Pope will restore trust in the office after the embarrassing saga.
“And that’s something that judge pope has expressed a willingness to work with us on,” Bourne said. “She wants it to be more transparent. She wants to meet with legislators up front and have an office that’s also focused on education and prevention and kind of opening up the process which I think is good.”
If approved by the full legislature, something that won’t happen until January at the earliest, Pope will serve in an hourly capacity starting March 1 and running through June 2023. How much she’ll make per hour and what other benefits she’ll get have not yet been determined.
“I am confident that Judge Pope will fulfill her duties and meet our expectations as the legislative inspector general,” said state Sen. Cristina Castro, D-Elgin, a member of the Legislative Ethics Commission. “She will bring her experience and knowledge to our commission and help us move forward and become stronger.”
Interim Legislative Inspector General Julie Porter has said she will remain on the job in a part-time capacity until the new inspector takes over. Bourne said if Pope is approved, she’ll work with Porter for a certain amount of time to ensure continuity and a smooth transition.
“Our goal is that in that two-month process, either Julie Porter can finish up any cases she’s working on or make sure that the new legislative inspector general can pick up where she left off,” Bourne said.