The news hit hard earlier this month when we learned that Speaker Madigan’s close ally Mike McClain urged leniency for a political worker facing disciplinary action, calling the individual “loyal to the administration” because he kept quiet about a “Champaign rape” and a “ghost payroll” scheme.
Knowing about a rape and choosing not to report it out of a twisted sense of political loyalty is sickening. Learning that the email about the individual who kept mum was distributed over state email to state officials is appalling. The announcement on January 13 that the Illinois Director of Agriculture, a State Senator at the time the email was sent, was in possession of the email and failed to alert authorities, further highlights just how deep the corruption and cronyism runs in our state. If a rank-and-file Senator received the email, one must wonder how many other elected officials received it and did nothing.
Rape and ghost payroll schemes (paying people for jobs even though they do not actually perform work) are serious criminal offenses. Failing to report these despicable acts crosses an ethical line, especially for elected officials. Every individual with knowledge of these acts must be held accountable. This particular situation involving these two incidents is indicative of a much larger problem. The toxic culture that has grown and deepened over the last four decades is unethical at best and truly appalling at its worst. I applaud the Governor for taking swift action to remove a member of his cabinet who knew about the cover-up, but it begs the question—why is the Governor quick to take action within his own inner circle, but unwilling to stand up to the House Speaker?
These revelations underscore the critical need for an ethics overhaul in Illinois government. And regarding the “Champaign rape,” sadly it appears we cannot count on public officials to do the right thing. We must legislate it. I am drafting legislation that would put mandatory reporting rules in place when public officials have knowledge of a criminal sexual assault. Similar to laws on the books that require reporting of suspected child abuse, evidently, we need a law that imposes criminal penalties for anyone who knows about a rape and does not contact the proper authorities.
It was also disheartening to learn that the Champaign County State’s Attorney was initially hesitant to investigate the rape because her budget did not provide for the convening of a grand jury. I am exploring a legislative remedy that would address that issue, so that moving forward our state’s attorneys do not feel hamstrung by budget restraints when important investigations need to occur.
Lawmakers return to Springfield on January 28, and House Republicans will be pushing a bold and comprehensive ethics reform agenda. We need to restore trust in government and raise the behavioral bar for those who serve the public.