Rutherford’s integrity on the line
Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford’s refusal to release the results of a taxpayer-funded investigation into allegations against him — results he previously promised to release — casts doubt his ability to handle the pressure and expectations that come with being governor.
Until recently, Rutherford was considered the No. 2 Republican candidate for governor in a four-man field.
However, his handling of a still-unfolding political crisis involving accusations of political coercion and sexual harassment against him shows he is not ready for prime time.
Rutherford’s first misstep was a Jan. 31 news conference during which he denied unspecified allegations by an unspecified person and refused to provide further details.
He pledged to order an internal investigation, conducted at taxpayers’ expense, to get to the bottom of the allegations and vowed to release the results, which he said would clear his name.
A few days later, the accuser, former Rutherford aide Edmund Michalowski, filed a federal lawsuit against Rutherford and his chief of staff Kyle Ham, accusing Rutherford of repeated sexual harassment and forcing him to do political work on state time.
The internal investigation — which reportedly involved interviewing treasurer’s office employees — now is complete, but Rutherford refuses to make it public, saying his attorney advised him not to release it because of pending litigation.
Pending litigation also happens to be one of the exemptions in the state’s sunshine law.
Rutherford insists he hasn’t read the results and has no idea what they say.
What he’s succeeded in doing is putting his own interests before those of Illinois taxpayers.
The investigation cost $250 an hour, with a final cost cap of $19,999.
Nothing is stopping him from going against his attorney’s advice on this matter of public information and keeping his promise to Illinoisans.
Any voters who now question whether Rutherford is committed to being an accountable and transparent public servant, especially when the chips are down, certainly are correct to do so.
— GateHouse Media Illinois