State Rep. Lou Lang cleared of sex harassment claims: ‘I have been vindicated’

The state’s acting legislative inspector general has cleared state Rep. Lou Lang of harassment allegations — ruling in a report that there’s not enough evidence to prove such harassment occurred, in part because the woman who accused him would not be interviewed for the investigation.

The Skokie Democrat was stripped of his leadership posts in May — just a day after he helped Illinois become the 37th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment on the Illinois House floor.

Maryann Loncar went public with the claims on May 31, saying, “I was harassed. I was intimidated. I was humiliated.”  Loncar said Lang, the House deputy majority leader, committed “terrible acts against her” and accused him of killing a hemp bill she had been working to pass.

She said Lang once put his hand on her lower back and asked her if she knew “how lucky” her husband was to have a wife like her. In another instance, Loncar said Lang called her during dinner, asked if she was alone and remarked that he’d like to join her.

But in a report issued Wednesday, Julie Porter, the acting legislative inspector general, wrote that there is not enough evidence to support Loncar’s claims and that the matter is now closed.

She also wrote in an email to Lang that she found Loncar’s allegations “unfounded.”

“Given her unwillingness to speak to me, and taking her descriptions and those of her colleague at face value, I do not have sufficient evidence to support a conclusion that such occurrences, if they even happened, constituted sexual harassment,” Porter wrote.

Lang said in a statement issued Wednesday that “the allegations were absurd and false and remain so today.

“Therefore, I welcome the Inspector General’s conclusion that completely dismisses the allegations as ‘unfounded,’” Lang wrote. “As far as I’m concerned, I have been vindicated and this matter is now closed.”

According to the report, Porter spoke to a witness who told her “on one occasion, he observed you [Lang] place your arm around Loncar, low on her back, and Loncar moved away.” Lang denied Loncar’s description.

Still, Porter warned that it is “of the utmost importance that legislators maintain a professional demeanor.”

“Legislators should be conscientious of personal boundaries, appreciating that even what might be intended as a friendly touch may create confusion and even fear in those who rely on legislators to carry important issues forward,” Porter wrote.

Porter wrote that the witness didn’t know of any other instances of purported sexual harassment.

“When questioned concerning how, in his view, you sexually harassed Loncar, the witness emphasized that Springfield was an ‘old boys’ club,’ and you were adversarial with Loncar and the witness concerning the cannabis legislation, ultimately passing what the witness viewed as an overly restrictive bill.”

Porter wrote that her investigation was limited because Loncar wouldn’t speak with her, but the inspector general did interview other witnesses and reviewed documents.

“Based on the weight of evidence, I do not sustain Loncar’s allegations that you threatened to ‘bury’ Loncar, or that you were offered a $170 million bribe,” Porter wrote, adding Loncar’s ex-husband denied there was a threat. In addition, multiple people at a meeting in which she alleged a bribe happened disputed her characterization. Loncar was not present at the meeting.

Porter concluded that Loncar was disappointed that Lang changed his mind on a cannabis bill and that the two disagreed about the merits of the bill.

“I credit your acknowledgement that the discussions became heated at times,” Porter wrote. “Although you deny using profanity, I nevertheless point out that the public is justified in expecting courtesy and civility from public servants.”

Porter wrote that members of the General Assembly should be “mindful about how uncivil conduct might taint the public’s view of those who speak on their behalf.”

Porter said she made multiple attempts to reach Loncar.

“I conclude that she does not wish to speak to me as part of this investigation,” Porter wrote of her efforts to reach her via mail, email and Facebook. Porter writes that during Loncar’s press conference, she “expressed distrust in the Office of the Legislative Inspector General.”

Shortly after Loncar accused Lang, he held his own news conference and issued a statement calling for an investigation of the accusations and announcing his resignation as House deputy majority leader and other leadership posts. But he also attacked Loncar’s motives, saying she was upset because she failed to win a license to dispense medical marijuana.

Lang wrote that day that he was stepping down from his leadership post “to avoid distraction from the agenda of the House Democratic Caucus.”

Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan said in a statement in May that Lang resigned from his leadership posts after consulting with him. It’s not immediately clear whether Lang will retain those posts. A spokesman for Madigan could not be immediately reached on Wednesday night.

Loncar, too, could not be immediately reached for comment on Wednesday.

This is the second major legislative harassment investigation for Porter, who in January concluded that state Sen. Ira Silverstein did not engage in sexual harassment “or other unlawful conduct,” but “he did behave in a manner unbecoming a legislator in violation of the Illinois Governmental Ethics Act.”

Madigan has come under fire for his handling of the complaints, but he has resisted increasing calls from some Democrats that he step down as state party chairman. At a Springfield news conference in February, Madigan said that his office has been there for potential harassment victims and has handled cases “according to protocol.”

“I’m not resigning. I’m moving forward,” he said. “I’m working with this particular issue, and we’re going to work our way through it.”

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via Politics – Chicago Sun-Times

September 6, 2018 at 06:02AM

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