(The Center Square) – Several Illinois state lawmakers are looking to give the Legislative Inspector General more independence to investigate lawmakers.
The Legislative Inspector General is overseen by the Legislative Ethics Commission, a bipartisan panel of lawmakers from the House and Senate. There have been various reforms to the office over the years since a multi-year vacancy was revealed in 2017 during the peak of the #MeToo movement.
One reform several years ago allowed sexual harassment claims to be investigated without the inspector getting permission from the commission.
State Rep. Mike Murphy, R-Springfield, wants to give the inspector general more freedom with House Bill 2575.
“She wouldn't have to go ask permission to issue subpoenas, she wouldn't have to get permission to start an investigation,” Murphy told WMAY. “Expanding her ability to do investigations, and I’m working that bill very hard and if that bill doesn’t get called in committee it will be a shame. It’s a good piece of legislation.”
The measure also requires complainants to be notified their claims have been received within 15 days.
Citizen Denise Rotheimer went a year without notification her case was being addressed. That revealed a years’ long vacancy in the office of inspector general in 2017. Tuesday Rotheimer said complainants need rights.
“You know, getting a notification, ‘yes, I received a copy of your complaint, it's not just sitting on a desk collecting dust in a vacant office for three years,” Rotheimer said.
She pushed for more rights for complainants than what Murphy’s bill provides.
Other elements of Murphy’s measure include requiring six of eight members of the legislative ethics commission needed to block publication of founded complaints, and unfounded reports can be published if the accused gives consent.
Murphy’s measure remains in the Rules committee. There are nine co-sponsors, all Republicans.
He’s heard concerns from some in his caucus who said they don’t “want it to allow the inspector general to just go on witch hunts,” Murphy said. “I don’t believe that will happen. I trust our inspector general.”
Rotheimer said to lawmakers who worry about “witch hunts,” they should know “we the people are tired of this corruption.”
“There are even protections against witch hunts on the application so when you are filing the complaint, there’s a disclosure that if you’re filing a false complaint, it’s a criminal penalty,” Rotheimer said.
She said lawmakers on the ethics commission back in 2017 knew of the vacancy and did nothing.
Last year, the previous Legislative Inspector General said the panel of lawmakers “cannot be trusted.”
The current Legislative Inspector General has advocated for more independence.