The Illinois State Treasurer, who is also a candidate for the GOP nomination for governor, says that he shared hotel rooms on overnight trips with his low-level assistant in order to save the state money.
Dan Rutherford defended himself against questions about his workplace judgment in bunk with his executive assistant, Joshua Lanning, at hotels and a Chicago apartment “totally as a cost-saving measure.”
The problem for Rutherford is that the news of his sleeping arrangements were preceded by a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by another man who formerly worked for him. Edmund Michalowski alleged that Rutherford was “hitting on” him during his stint in the treasurer’s office.
The lawsuit details one alleged episode in which traveled to Rutherford’s home for an “overnight retreat” with other staffers to discuss political issues only to find he was the only staffer in attendance. When he retired to a guest bedroom, the suit claims in legalese, Rutherford “entered Plaintiff’s bedroom and grabbed at Plaintiff’s genital area. Plaintiff immediately forced Rutherford off him, Plaintiff gathered his belongings and left.”
Rutherford vigorously denies the charges, and the treasurer’s office notes that the travel voucher that Michalowski filled out for the trip does not match up with the times he describes in the lawsuit. Michalowski says that he knowingly put the wrong time on the voucher because he was embarrassed about the episode and because Rutherford told him not to expense the trip to the state because it was about a political matter.
Also raising eyebrows is Joshua Lanning’s rapid rise in Rutherford’s office. His salary has increased 50 percent in the four years since he started working for Rutherford, who says that the increase reflects additional responsibilities that Lanning, 28, has taken on over the years. Records show that in addition to hotel stays, Rutherford and Lanning showed overnight stays in a Chicago studio apartment of a friend of Rutherford’s. In addition, Lanning accompanied Rutherford on a personal trip to Australia to visit Rutherford’s nephew. Rutherford says that Lanning is a friend of his nephew.
“There’s nothing wrong with being friends with employees,” Rutherford said as justification for his traveling arrangements. “I consider myself friends with many in the office.”
One point in Rutherford’s favor, in the face of all the allegations, is that he isn’t the kind of hypocrite prone to these revelations. Unlike a certain downstate Congressman, Rutherford has actually been a staunch supporter of LGBT issues, with the exception of marriage equality. That said, at a minimum he could use a refresher on workplace behavior.
Photo credit: Dan Rutherford’s Facebook page