New poll numbers show trouble for Illinois Treasurer Rutherford - FOX 32 News Chicago

New poll shows impact of Rutherford harassment allegations

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Dan Rutherford Dan Rutherford
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

There are now signs that the salacious, now 10-day old story is hurting Treasurer Dan Rutherford's campaign for governor.

Pollster 'We Ask America' questioned more than 1,000 likely Republican primary voters on Sunday in the North Suburban 10th and the West Suburban 11th Congressional Districts on the candidates.

They found Bruce Rauner at 46.6 percent, Bill Brady 16.5 percent, Kirk Dillard, 11.8 percent, Rutherford last at 9.73 percent.

Sunday night, Rutherford sought to turn that around, denying point-by-point the explosive allegations against him.

Those allegations are from a former high-ranking employee for Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford. He is charging that Rutherford sexually harassed him and used his state office to further his political aspirations in a federal court lawsuit filed Monday, the Sun-Times is reporting.

The employee, Ed Michalowski, charged that Rutherford has made unwanted sexual advances against him, starting in 2011. In one instance, Michalowski claims that in 2011 Rutherford held an overnight office retreat at Rutherford's Pontiac home, entered Michalowski's bedroom and grabbed his genitals.

Michalowski, 43, served as Rutherford's director of community affairs and marketing. He resigned last week, telling the Sun-Times he felt intimidated by a news conference Rutherford held promising to combat the allegations while flanked by former federal agents.

The lawsuit goes on to detail other instances of alleged harassment, including incidents at a Springfield bar, during the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., and at an office party.

In August of 2011, at D.H. Brown's, a bar in Springfield, Michalowski alleges that Rutherford approached him and said, "If you go home with me you can have anything you want in the office."

Michalowski also alleged that he was lured under false pretenses to Rutherford's Downstate home on April 2, 2011, where during an overnight stay Rutherford "grabbed at plaintiff's genital area. Plaintiff immediately forced Rutherford off of him. Plaintiff gathered his belongings and left."

In another instance, the lawsuit alleges that Michalowski and Rutherford were attending the Republican National Convention in Tampa in August 2012 when Rutherford asked Michalowski to go up to his hotel room.

When Michalowski refused, Rutherford allegedly became angry and said, "You just said no to the treasurer," according to the lawsuit.

In December 2013, Rutherford allegedly went over to Michalowski at an office party, rubbed his shoulders and said to him, "You need a full body massage."

"That was creepy," said another person who witnessed what happened, according to the lawsuit.

That same week, Rutherford allegedly called Michalowski and another state employee into his office, declaring, "I can see your chest through that shirt and t-shirt. Shake it, Baby, shake it."

Kyle Ham, Rutherford's chief of staff and Michalowski's boss, is also accused in the suit of demanding Michalowski to perform political activity and failing to investigate his harassment complaints.

When Michalowski complained about being sexually harassed, Ham allegedly responded that he, too, had been harassed by Rutherford and said, "At least we have job security."

In a preemptive strike, Rutherford held a news conference on Jan. 31 to combat the allegations, calling them categorically false and politically motivated. At the time, Rutherford said he couldn't detail the charges but said he had launched his own internal inquiry.

After the news conference, Michalowski's attorney released a lengthy statement responding to Rutherford's remarks, but Monday was the first time the allegations were made in a legal venue and the first time that Michalowski's name became public.

After the lawsuit came out on Monday, Rutherford produced a travel voucher that he said contradicted Michalowski's story. It did not reflect any overnight stay, reporting that Michalowski left his Chicago at 4 a.m. and, after a drive Downstate, was back home by 4 p.m. the same day.

The lawsuit comes five weeks before the March gubernatorial primary in which Rutherford was seen as the clear runner-up to front-runner Winnetka venture capitalist Bruce Rauner. Rutherford has claimed that Rauner was behind the charges; however, he was unable to provide proof beyond Rauner's campaign last year paid the Michalowski's attorney, Christine Svenson, to review a lease.

"Obviously the allegations are false," Rutherford office spokeswoman Mary Frances Bragiel said.

For his part, Michalowski insisted to the Sun-Times he has no political motivations behind his allegations.

"I've never met Bruce Rauner," Michalowski has told the Sun-Times. "I went to [Svenson] as an employment lawyer."

The lawsuit says Rutherford allegedly entered Michalowski's bedroom in 2011 and grabbed his genital area. Michalowski "immediately forced him off of him" left the house and reported it to the chief of staff.

In the lawsuit, Michalowski alleges that Rutherford demanded that he go through his personal list of past clients and ask them to donate to Rutherford's campaign fund.

Michalowski's attorney said on Monday that her client kept some text messages as corroboration but concedes there were likely no witnesses to many of the alleged incidents.

State records show Michalowski was paid $97,232 in 2013 and $99,000 in 2012.

Svenson said on Monday that her client was not in a desperate financial situation and now has a salary in excess of six figures.

Rutherford, however, repeated Monday what FOX 32 News first reported on Feb. 2nd: that Michalowski and his estranged wife filed for bankruptcy, but fell thousands of dollars behind on their payment plan, suggesting that may be a motive for the lawsuit.

Rutherford also said as he has indicated along that his opponent Bruce Rauner is behind this whole thing, a claim that has no evidence behind it.

Rutherford's accuser, Edmund Michalowski, began working a new job today at the Cook County Building.

An aide said he was "too busy" to talk to FOX 32.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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