State Senator Karen McConnaughay (R-St. Charles) told the members of Senate Task Force on Sexual Discrimination and Harassment Awareness and Prevention April 10 that changes are needed in the way ethics complaints are filed against lawmakers.
McConnaughay has introduced Senate Bill 3159 and Senate Bill 3161 to update and improve Legislative Ethics Commission (LEC) procedures and membership requirements.
“Senate Bill 3159 attempts to address a number of various issues as to how it relates procedurally to how the Legislative Ethics Commission functions,” said McConnaughay.
Those changes include:
- Requires an LEC member to recuse him/herself from any matter relating to an investigation in which he/she is the subject, a witness or a complainant and establishes a process to appoint a temporary replacement member for the recused member for purposes of the specific matter that generated the recusal.
- Requires the Legislative Ethics Commission to appoint a Legislative Inspector General (LIG) no later than 30 days after the vacancy occurs.
- Allows the LIG to proceed with processing a summary report if the ultimate jurisdictional authority does not respond to the summary report within the allotted 20 days.
- Requires that the LIG submit a summary report to the Attorney General if the ultimate jurisdictional authority is the subject of the report.
- Extends the statute of limitations for filing a complaint with the LEC for any complaint involving information sent to the Inspector General during Dec. 1, 2014 and November 3, 2017, until May 17, 2019.
- Expands the jurisdiction of the Legislative Ethics Commission to include the Illinois Governmental Ethics Act (currently only the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act).
- Adds transparency provisions to the bill. These provisions apply to both the Executive Ethics Commission, the Legislative Ethics Commission, and the Auditor General Inspector General.
- Provides for sharing of a summary report and response and if the LIG does not believe a complaint should be filed, a statement of reasons for that decision with the complainant when the allegations are based on a violation involving sexual harassment.
- Requires publication of summary reports and responses of a violation of the prohibition on sexual harassment.
- Prohibits redaction of the name of a person who has been found to have violated the prohibition on sexual harassment.
- Makes quarterly reports of an Inspector General public information.
Senate Bill 3161 makes several changes to LEC membership requirements, including:
- Adds four public members to the Legislative Ethics Commission (one appointed by each leader) which increases the membership from eight to 12. The majority vote requirement is adjusted to seven to reflect the new composition of the Commission.
- Requires a commissioner to recuse him/herself in matters where he/she is a witness or complainant (currently, only when the subject of the matter).
- Minutes of Commission meetings will be redacted appropriately and made public on the Commission's website within five business days after approval of the minutes.
- Establishes an independent process for selecting candidates for the office of Legislative Inspector General.
- If the Legislative Inspector General is vacant for more than six months, complaints will be directed to the Inspector General for Office of the Attorney General who will investigate and handle the complaints in accordance with statute.
Sen. McConnaughay serves as a member of the Senate Task Force on Sexual Discrimination and Harassment Awareness and Prevention, which is tasked to help ensure that every woman and man feels safe in their work environment—and comfortable filing complaints if their safety is violated. The members use testimony to analyze the issues and illegal activities workers face within the private and public sectors to determine what types of proposed changes and legislation will be needed to reduce and eliminate sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.