(The Center Square) – While federal prosecutors continue their probe into the ComEd bribery scandal that implicates House Speaker Michael Madigan, a citizen hopes another avenue will hold the speaker to account.
Back in July, federal prosecutors released a deferred prosecution agreement ComEd entered into where the utility admitted it paid $1.3 million in bribes to associates of “Public Official A,” who was identified in court documents as the Illinois House Speaker. That’s been Madigan for all but two years since 1983. The utility has testified in a public hearing it paid the bribes through jobs and vendor contracts for little to no work in an effort to influence the speaker.
Thursday, in expressing frustration that the House Special Investigating Committee into Madigan's conduct has been stalled by Democrats, House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, was asked about whether the Legislative Inspector General was a possible avenue for accountability.
“I’m not aware of any complaint that has been filed by the LIG,” Durkin said. “They can make recommendations.”
Citizen Denise Rotheimer filed a complaint against Madigan in August after the revelations of the scandal a few weeks before. She was disappointed Durkin didn’t file his own complaint through the LIG as well.
“Because this is an avenue that is supposed to be for all of us in this state to hold these state officials, and elected officials, accountable, ethically,” Rotheimer said.
Back in 2016, Rotheimer exposed a multi-year vacancy of the LIG position when she testified about her stalled abuse of power complaint against a then-state Senator. There were a dozen other complaints that had not been investigated.
Rotheimer shared a confirmation letter the LIG sent notifying her they have received the complaint. It’s unclear if the LIG has been given permission by the Legislative Ethics Commission to investigate the matter and make recommendations. That commission is made of state lawmakers legislative leaders appoint.
Reform For Illinois Executive Director Alisa Kaplan said the way it’s set up right now, legislators police themselves, equating that to the fox guarding the henhouse. That’s because the LIG has to get permission from the Legislative Ethics Commission to investigate most complaints.
“She has to ask permission from legislators, from other members of the General Assembly, to basically do anything,” Kaplan said.
Rotheimer said while the LIG has the independence to investigate sexual harassment complaints, others, like the one she filed against Madigan over the ComEd bribery scandal, still have to go through the group of lawmakers.
“All of our complaints should be entitled to the independence we expect from that office,” Rotheimer said.
Messages seeking comment from Legislative Inspector General Carol Pope weren’t immediately returned.
Some at the statehouse have proposed putting nonlegislators on the legislative ethics commission. Others, including Pope, want to give the LIG the ability to independently investigate claims, issue subpoenas or even report unfounded claims without having to get permission from the LEC.
Madigan has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with a crime. He’s refused to voluntarily testify to the House Special Investigating Committee. Lawmakers on the committee have not approved subpoenas for Madigan or others connected to the case who have also refused to volunteer testimony.