The Illinois General Assembly finally has chosen someone to investigate ethics complaints against state legislators and staff.
Julie Porter, a former federal prosecutor based in Evanston, was appointed as temporary legislative inspector general following a weekend telephone conference call of eight lawmakers assigned to oversee ethics in the legislature.
“She’s a special inspector general, in order to deal with the backlog the emergency situation that we have found,” State Sen. Karen McConnaughay, R-St. Charles, told CBS Chicago.
Porter was on the federal prosecution team that brought down Springfield Republican powerbroker Bill Cellini in 2011. Once formally appointed, she will face a backlog of at least 27 cases that have languished over three years — since the last legislative inspector general stepped down.
The vacancy and backlog came to light last week, when a citizen activist public accused Chicago Democrat State Sen. Ira Silverstein, then the chairman of the Senate Majority Caucus, of sexual harassment. The woman had made a formal ethics complaint last year, but it had gone nowhere.
But there are questions about whether some of the cases Porter will inherit might be too old. The State Ethics Act says an investigation cannot start more than one year after the most recent violation.
Since there hasn’t been someone in the inspector general role in nearly three years, the majority of those more than two dozen cases could be blocked. Democrats reportedly are working on legislation intended to extend that statute of limitations.
- Illinois Public Radio Statehouse Reporter Brian Mackey contributed to this report.