Illinois Lawmakers Accused Of Sexual Misconduct Since 2017
SPRINGFIELD, IL — At least four former Illinois lawmakers are among the more than 100 across the country who have been accused of sexual harassment or misconduct during the four years since the #MeToo reckoning that began in 2017, according to data collected by The Associated Press.
One is awaiting trial on criminal charges, one was found to have behaved in a “manner unbecoming of a legislator in violation of the Illinois Governmental Ethics Act” and the third saw an inspector general’s investigation into his conduct dismissed. Another former lawmaker was a subject in a sexual misconduct investigation last year but has not been criminally charged.
Illinois state lawmakers are among other politicians, entertainers and business leaders exposed in the social justice movement to end sexual abuse and sexual harassment. The movement began in 2017 when movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, now a convicted sex offender, was accused by more than 80 women of sexual misconduct allegations dating back to the late 1970s.
The movement that inspired the #MeToo hashtag also prompted a flurry of new legislation, training requirements for legislators and investigative guidelines in statehouses across America, including in Illinois.
The AP compiled the database as part of its ongoing coverage of how politicians are responding to sexual misconduct claims. It includes state lawmakers only.
It doesn’t include members of Congress or other elected officials investigated regarding sexual misconduct claims — notably New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is embroiled in a sexual harassment investigation, or Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz, who was initially investigated in connection with sex trafficking and now faces a larger review into public corruption.
Some of the allegations against state lawmakers are no less serious.
Nationally, more than 40 of the accused state lawmakers have resigned or were expelled from office, and at least as many others faced other repercussions, including the loss of committee leadership positions, The AP reported. A handful were cleared.
The lawmakers included in the database are predominantly men, but a couple of women also have been accused of sexual misconduct. Both Democrats and Republicans are the subjects of what could be career-ending investigations.
Nick Sauer is awaiting trial in Lake County Court on 12 counts of non-consensual dissemination of private sexual images, a class 4 felony.
Sauer, a 38-year-old former member of the Lake County Board member and Barrington Unit District 220 School Board, resigned from the Illinois House in August 2018 following entice them into sexually explicit discussions.that he operated a fake social media count where he posted nude images of an ex-girlfriend to “catfish” other men and
The first-term Republican state representative had served on the House Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Task Force. He also faces a civil lawsuit from another former girlfriend who said she discovered Sauer had also been using naked photos of her without consent.
Sauer is due back in court Tuesday for a case management conference. A trial date has been tentatively set for October following a series of defense motions to delay it.
Ira Silverstein, 60, was an Illinois state senator representing parts of the North Side and Niles Township for more than 20 years. He resigned as chairman of the Democratic caucus after victims’ rights advocate Denise Rotheimer publicly accused him of sending inappropriate messages to her.
In January 2018, a legislative special inspector general released the results of an investigation finding that Silverstein had violated the state ethics act but had not committed sexual harassment and recommending that he undergo counseling from the Senate’s ethics officer. Silverstein ran for re-election but was defeated in the March 2018 primary.
Two years after voters declined to send him back to the Senate, Silverstein stepped down as 50th Ward Democratic Committeeperson, handing the seat to his wife, Chicago Ald. Deb Silverstein, and filed paperwork to become a Cook County judge. He was deemed “not qualified” by the state bar association and placed a distant third in the Democratic Party primary.
Lou Lang, 71, resigned his position as deputy House majority leader in May 2018 immediately after a medical marijuana activist accused him of sexual harassment and verbal abuse during meetings to discuss the state’s cannabis legislation.
In September 2018, a legislative inspector general said there was insufficient proof that Lang had engaged in any harassment. Lang said he had been “vindicated.” His accuser, Maryann Loncar, did not cooperate with the investigation and described the process as “a joke.”
Two days before he was due to be sworn in for a 17th term in office as state representative, the Skokie Democrat resigned to become a lobbyist with the firm Advantage Government Strategies. Lang remains Niles Township Democratic committeeperson.
Jack Franks, 57, was a member of the Illinois House from 1999 to 2017 and McHenry Country Board chairman from 2017 to 2020.
In January 2020, the Marengo Democrat was named on a search warrant executed by Illinois State Police at former House Speaker Mike Madigan’s office in the Capitol. Madigan’s spokesperson said the investigation dates back to a November 2018 complaint of harassment filed by an employee of the speaker’s office.
About three-fourths of the states have passed some 75 laws and resolutions over the past two years that target sexual harassment, abuse or assault in government or in private business. About half the states renewed or extended deadlines to pursue criminal charges or civil lawsuits over childhood sexual abuse.
In Illinois, six pieces of legislation signed between 2017 and 2019 address sexual misconduct and harassment, including requirements that institutions develop policies against sexual harassment and retaliation, put in place training and confidential complaint procedures and publicly disclose details of severance payments to employees accused of sexual harassment or discrimination.
Additionally, state lawmakers facing civil lawsuits alleging sexual harassment have been forbidden from using public money to pay their settlements, and the statute of limitations for all felony sex crimes have been lifted. Adults no longer have to report crimes within three years and prosecution no longer has to take place within 10 years.
States across the country also updated their sexual harassment policies and required training of lawmakers on appropriate workplace conduct. At least 45 House chambers and 43 Senate chambers now require legislators to receive training on appropriate workplace conduct and on preventing, identifying and reporting sexual misconduct.
About half of state legislative chambers have turned to independent investigators to look into complaints of sexual misconduct and harassment by lawmakers.
In Illinois, the authority of the legislative inspector general was updated in 2018 so the position no longer requires permission from lawmakers on the Ethics Commission in order to investigate complaints. The modifications to the role of the legislative inspector general followed a three-year vacancy in the post, during which dozens of complaints into lawmakers went uninvestigated.