A former high-ranking employee for Illinois State Treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Dan Rutherford (R) accused Rutherford of sexually harassing him in a suit filed Monday in federal court.
The employee, Ed Michalowski, alleges that Rutherford made inappropriate sexual advances as far back as 2011, according to the suit.
In a statement on Monday, Rutherford said the allegations are false. He told The Associated Press last week that he suspected a Republican gubernatorial rival, businessman Bruce Rauner, of being behind the allegations.
Michalowski alleges in the suit that from April 2011 through last December, Rutherford subjected him to “a long-standing pattern of discrimination based upon his sex (male), retaliation because he complained, and created and perpetuated an ongoing hostile work environment.”
It started, Michalowski alleges, in April 2011, when Michalowski drove Rutherford to his residence in Chenoa, Ill., for an “overnight retreat.” According to the suit, Michalowski said he was informed that other staff members would be at the retreat, but none showed up. When Michalowski retired to the guest bedroom, the suit alleges, Rutherford “grabbed at [Michalowski’s] genital area.”
During another incident in August 2011 — at D.H. Brown’s, a bar in Springfield, Ill. — Michalowski alleges that Rutherford approached him as he was leaving the bar with a group of women and said, “If you go home with me, you can have anything you want in the office.”
And in another, Michalowski alleges that when he accompanied Rutherford to the Republican National Convention in Tampa in 2012, Rutherford asked Michalowski one night to go back to his room. When Michalowski refused, according to the suit, Rutherford became angry and said, “You just said no to the Treasurer.”
Rutherford held a press conference on Jan. 31, when he pre-emptively pushed back against coming accusations from an employee he did not name.
Rauner appears to be leading the race for the Republican nomination. A January poll showed that Rauner captured more than 18% of the Republican vote, twice as much as any other contender. The majority of Republicans, though, were still undecided. The lawsuit comes just weeks before a March 18 primary.
Here’s the lawsuit in full:
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