Illinois lawmakers eye additional reforms to how ethics complaints are handled in Springfield

State lawmakers could make a fresh effort to bring about additional changes to how complaints against state lawmakers are handled in Springfield. The Center Square

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State lawmakers could make a fresh effort to bring about additional changes to how complaints against state lawmakers are handled in Springfield.

Last month a report from former Executive Inspector General Maggie Hickey highlighted claims of harassment of employees and others under the capitol dome in Springfield. House Speaker Michael Madigan requested the investigation and report after several high-profile harassment allegations.

Hickey’s report found Madigan’s former chief of staff and House Clerk Tim Mapes harassed employees for years. Mapes resigned last year after one employee publicly shared several instances of harassing language and behavior at a news conference with reporters.

Anyone can file an ethics complaint against a state lawmaker with the Legislative Inspector General. But the Legislative Inspector General has to get permission to investigate from a bipartisan panel of state lawmakers on the Legislative Ethics Commission.

House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said Hickey’s report underscored the need for changes. But he said has faith in the Legislative Ethics Commission to come up with needed reforms. He said the commission doesn’t work with leadership on issues.

“They don’t consult with me and I’m not going to get involved in that,” Durkin said. “At this point, I will ask them as we get close to the session if there are recommendations they think would help improve this process. I’ll keep an open mind toward it, but I have confidence that the people I have appointed there will do the right thing.”

Legislative Inspector General Carol Pope said earlier this year after taking the job she agreed with the criticisms that the office of the Legislative Inspector General wasn’t truly independent.

“When you have things like you have to ask the commission to issue a subpoena or you have to ask the commission to open an investigation, I think those are things that restrict the independence of the Legislative Inspector General and could be addressed with some statutory amendments that I hope to be working toward over the next several months and years of my tenure,” Pope said.

Pope’s term ends in June 2023.

State Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake, said she was successful in getting the Legislative Inspector General independence to investigate allegations of harassment involving lawmakers without permission from the commission. But she said that “the fox shouldn’t be guarding the henhouse” on other alleged ethics violations.

“The Legislative Inspector General can still not move on their own authority to go forward on an investigation if it’s ethics or other issues,” Bush said. “I’m looking forward to working on that next year.”

Lawmakers are back for six days this fall, but they have more days scheduled for the second year of the 101st General Assembly beginning in January.

The Center Square

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