The allegations that Treasurer Dan Rutherford sexually harassed and politically pressured a former employee will cost taxpayers at least $27,000 in legal and investigative fees, and that figure is expected to grow.
The largest cost so far is an $18,122.50 bill from ex-IRS agent Ron Braver to investigate and prepare a report on the allegations—but while that probe was completed last week, Rutherford has refused to release it. The treasurer’s office also hired an outside law firm to consult on the matter, which charged the state $8,820 for its services.
The allegations have since become the subject of a federal lawsuit filed by Edmund Michalowski, Rutherford’s former director of community affairs and marketing. Rutherford has denied any wrongdoing and said the allegations are politically motivated as he seeks the Republican nomination for governor. The primary election is March 18.
Braver’s bill included 62.5 hours of his time charged at $250 an hour, plus 13.5 hours for an associate charged at $185 an hour. The Springfield law firm Brown, Hay & Stephens billed the state $210 an hour for 42 hours of work. The bills were released in response to the Tribune’s Freedom of Information Act request.
The treasurer’s office redacted portions of both invoices that detail the kind of work conducted, citing an exemption in public records law that prevent the release of “materials prepared or complied by or for a public body in anticipation of a criminal, civil or administrative proceeding upon the request of an attorney advising the public body.”
Braver has declined to discuss details of his work, but said he interviewed Rutherford as well as treasurer office employees.
Rutherford spokeswoman Mary Frances Bragiel said the redacted elements of Braver’s bill related to interviews and documents he reviewed as part of the investigation. Rutherford had planned to discuss the investigation during a news conference last week, but canceled that briefing after hiring Chicago attorney Peter Andjelkovich to represent him in the federal case.
Andjelkovich said he advised Rutherford not to release the report. On Friday, the treasurer’s office denied an open records request by the Tribune seeking a copy of the report. In his denial, general counsel Neil Olson cited the exemption relating to materials prepared in anticipation of a lawsuit.
Andjelkovich was initially hired as a personal attorney for Rutherford, but the treasurer’s office has since requested that Andjelkovich be named a special Illinois attorney general, which means he would represent Rutherford at taxpayer expense. That rate is set at $200 an hour. The treasurer's office also asked Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office to represent Rutherford's chief of staff, Kyle Ham, who also was named in the Michalowski lawsuit. Ham has denied any wrongdoing
Taxpayers will also be responsible for costs related to Rutherford’s hiring of a former FBI agent, who suggested Rutherford hire Braver to conduct an outside review. The treasurer’s office says that bill has yet to be submitted for payment.
Rutherford had long tried to position himself to Republican voters as the leading choice behind wealthy Winnetka businessman Bruce Rauner, but Rutherford’s campaign has suffered amid the ongoing controversy. A Tribune poll conducted after Rutherford first revealed he was facing misconduct allegations showed Rauner had 40 percent support compared to 20 percent for state Sen. Bill Brady and 13 percent for Rutherford. State Sen. Kirk Dillard had 11 percent.