Politician’s Sex-Harassment Problems Pile Up

     CHICAGO (CN) – Three state workers sued former Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford, claiming he fired them for backing up claims of sexual harassment that are headed for trial.
     Former Treasurer’s Office employees George Daglas, Ashvin Lad and Patrick Carlson say they “began to experience hostile treatment by senior Illinois State Treasurer’s Office (ISTO) staff” after being interviewed as witnesses to the sexual harassment allegations.
     They sued Rutherford, his former chief of staff Kyle Ham, and the state Treasurer’s Office on July 1 in Cook County Court.
     Rutherford served 10 years in the state House, from 1993 to 2003, and the next 8 years in the state Senate. After one term as treasurer, he finished fourth in the 2014 Republican primary election for governor, with 7.6 percent of the vote. Bruce Rauner won the primary and the general election and took office in January.
     During his campaign for governor, Rutherford announced that he had been accused of sexual harassment by an aide. The aide, Edmund Michalowski, sued him 5 weeks before the primary election.
     In the new lawsuit, the three plaintiffs say that the Treasurer’s Office’s General Counsel and Chief Ethics Officer told them “that cooperation with the [internal] investigation was a required condition of their employment as ISTO employees.”
     The Treasurer’s Office had hired Ron Braver & Associates for to investigate.
     The plaintiffs say they told investigators, in separate interviews, “that the allegations of sexual harassment against Rutherford were true” and that “ISTO resources and employees were being illegally used to support Rutherford’s campaign.”
     Whereupon defendant Chief of Staff Ham told their co-workers that they were “part of a conspiracy to end Rutherford’s campaign for governor,” according to the complaint.
     Daglas, Lad and Carlson say they were then investigated on bogus charges of false timekeeping abuses and were fired in July 2014.
     They claim their own investigations “contained numerous misstatements of fact and misrepresentations” to which they were not allowed to respond.
     They say it was done “to intimidate plaintiffs into silence about the illegal actions.”
     The lawsuit continues: “Shortly after the plaintiffs were terminated from the ISTO, Ham stated to another ISTO employee in reference to plaintiffs, ‘We came guns blazing. You think they’ll shut up now?'”
     A federal judge refused to dismiss Michalowski’s lawsuit in March, finding that he had alleged enough facts to state a hostile work environment claim.”
     The plaintiffs seek reinstatement, double back pay, with interest, seniority rights and interest, and punitive damages for emotional distress and whistleblower violations.
     They are represented by James Vanzant with the Kurtz Law Offices, of Hinsdale.