Silverstein Resigns Senate Leadership Post After Harassment Report

Nov 2, 2017

Chicago Democrat Ira Silverstein is resigning his leadership position in the Illinois Senate following accusations he sexually harassed an advocate working with him on a bill. 

Silverstein represents Lincolnwood and parts of other towns in the northern Chicago suburbs. 

Lobbyist Denise Rotheimer publicly accused him of harassing her last year.

She testified at an Illinois House Personnel and Pensions Committee hearing in Chicago this week about about legislation to require annual sexual harassment training for lawmakers, staff members and lobbyists working in the Capitol.

She said Silverstein threatened to stop supporting a bill she advocated when he thought she had a boyfriend. Rotheimer told the committee that Silverstein sent her unwanted social media messages, called her late at night, described her as "intoxicating" and told her, "I like having meetings with you, because you're pretty to look at."

She said Silverstein played "mind games" and "had so much power over me" while he sponsored legislation she championed that would have provided free legal representation to crime victims maneuvering through sometimes byzantine courts.

Silverstein, who is married, told The Associated Press he could not remember whether he did the things Rotheimer alleged but also suggested that she might have been unhappy because the legislation has not yet passed.

"I apologize if I made her uncomfortable," he said.

"There were no mind games, no power struggle," Silverstein said. "I was working the bill. That was my job, to work the bill. She might not like how the bill was proceeding. Maybe that's the issue here."

He is not resigning from his Senate seat, though he’s stepping down as Majority Caucus Chair. That post includes an annual stipend of nearly $21,000 on top of his legislative salary.

The complaint against Silverstein follows publication last month of an open letter detailing a pervasive culture of sexual harassment at the state capitol.

  • WBEZ reporter Tony Arnold contributed to this report.