Rauner signs legislation spurred by ex-Des Plaines superintendent’s severance

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Taxpayer-funded severance agreements stemming from sexual harassment or sexual discrimination complaints must be published online and given to news media before approval, under a measure signed into law by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

The legislation was created in response to the Des Plaines Elementary District 62 board’s agreeing in November to pay then-Superintendent Floyd Williams Jr. a $127,000 severance, after he was accused of sexually harassing employees. Williams has denied those claims.

State Rep. David McSweeney, a Barrington Hills Republican, and state Sen. Tom Cullerton, a Villa Park Democrat, sponsored the legislation, which unanimously passed the House and Senate.

“There should be zero tolerance for sexual harassment and discrimination,” McSweeney said in a news release. “Public bodies should be held accountable for any and all ‘golden parachutes,’ but especially in these cases.”

“The Me Too Campaign movement continues to be an essential effort to push our society toward a zero-tolerance atmosphere,” Cullerton said in a statement about the legislation. “This law moves Illinois a step in the right direction.”

Under the law, public bodies such as cities, townships and school districts must publish information about severance agreements with employees or contractors who have been found to have engaged in sexual harassment or sexual discrimination. The information must be online and made available to news media within 72 hours of a vote to approve the agreement.

The final bill differed from legislation first introduced by McSweeney. Rather than applying to employees accused of sexual harassment, public bodies need only publish the information when an employee is determined to have engaged in the inappropriate conduct.

“I want to make sure we have zero tolerance for sexual harassment, but I also want to make sure people have a fair hearing,” McSweeney said.

Additionally, the disclosure requirements do not supersede confidentiality provisions within the severance agreement. McSweeney said that while it may appear that this is a loophole for government officials to hide cases of sexual harassment, state law requires compelling reasons for confidentiality.

“If they put in confidentiality provisions, they are held to a standard,” he said.

The rules became effective when Rauner signed the legislation last week.

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August 29, 2018 at 04:19PM

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