Edmund Michalowski started his new job at the Cook County Recorder of Deeds office the same day he filed a federal lawsuit claiming sexual harassment against Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford, but his new employer says he was offered the job in December.
In January, Michalowski's attorney approached Rutherford with allegations about incidents in 2011 and 2012 and, according to Rutherford, sought $300,000 to keep the matter quiet.
Democratic Recorder Karen Yarbrough says Michalowski first applied to be her office's director of hiring compliance last August, months before his claims went public.
"The notion that Michalowski's hiring is related to his court case against the treasurer is ludicrous, and the fact that he first applied to work here last August supports this," Yarbrough said in a statement. "I was not aware of his sexual harassment allegations until last week, after he was hired."
Michalowski was offered a job as a labor attorney in December and started work Monday. The spot he originally applied for hasn't yet been filled, Yarbrough's office said.
His new job is considered exempt from federal rules against patronage hiring, so Yarbrough had more latitude to pick someone for the position.
Michalowski's name was first attached publicly to the allegations against Rutherford on Monday, when he filed a lawsuit claiming, among other things, that Rutherford touched him in his genital area at a retreat and made him do work for Republican Mitt Romney's campaign for president.
Rutherford has fought back, questioning why Michalowski would bring up the claims weeks before the March 18 primary election, arguing text messages were taken out of context and showing travel reports that don't line up with Michalowski's claims.
Still, the accusations made political waves in the already hotly contested GOP primary for governor, where Rutherford is running against Winnetka businessman Bruce Rauner, state Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale and state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington. Rutherford accuses Rauner of being behind the allegation, which Rauner denies.
Michalowski previously worked for Secretary of State Jesse White, a Democrat, for more than 10 years before taking the job with Rutherford in January 2011. He ran for Cook County judge as a Democrat in 2010, but lost.
The job Michalowski left in Rutherford's office paid $99,000 per year, and his new job pays $107,425 per year, according to county records.
On his application to work in Yarbrough's office, Michalowski checked a box allowing his potential employer to contact White about his previous work. He didn't check the box giving permission for contacting Rutherford Chief of Staff Kyle Ham, who Michalowski also named in his complaint.