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updated: 11/4/2017 11:49 PM

Legislative Ethics Commission appoints inspector general

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By Sarah Zoellick
Daily Herald correspondent

The state Legislative Ethics Commission met Saturday and appointed former federal prosecutor Julie B. Porter to serve as special legislative inspector general, according to reports.

Members of the Legislative Ethics Commission unanimously approved Porter's appointment, according to the Springfield-based political blog Capitol Fax. The appointment took effect immediately and will expire on June 30, 2018.

Suburban lawmakers quickly issued statements praising the move.

State Sen. Cristina Castro of Elgin, the newest member of the Legislative Ethics Commission, said in a news release issued Saturday that Porter "has a proven record of fighting public corruption as the Assistant United States Attorney," as well as "extensive experience seeking justice for the people of Illinois."

"I look forward to seeing her get to work as our new Inspector General," Castro said. "I'm confident she will work swiftly and thoroughly to investigate and resolve all outstanding complaints."

Assistant majority leader state Sen. Terry Link of Vernon Hills released a statement Saturday as well, characterizing Porter as "a skilled attorney who has experience trying public corruption and fraud cases."

"I look forward to working with Ms. Porter to quickly get the Ethics Commission back on track, address the complaints that exist and move forward," he said.

Porter's appointment comes as a spotlight is being shown on sexual misconduct and harassment in state government.

House lawmakers are considering a bill that would require new sexual harassment training for state elected officials, and last week, a woman testified in a committee hearing that state Sen. Ira Silverstein, a Chicago Democrat, repeatedly harassed her.

Silverstein denied harassing the woman but subsequently stepped down from his position as majority caucus chairman.

Rep. Nick Sauer of Lake Barrington, a co-sponsor of the bill, has called the legislation "long overdue."

State Sen. Karen McConnaughay of St. Charles), also a member of the Legislative Ethics Commission, recently said she learned that 27 misconduct complaints had been filed with the office since 2015.

According to the Illinois General Assembly's website, the Office of the Legislative Inspector General, which Porter now leads, is tasked with receiving and investigating complaints of violations of any law, rule or regulation or abuse of authority or other forms of misconduct by members of the General Assembly and certain state employees.

Porter left the U.S. attorney's office last year after 12 years of service to open a private law practice in Chicago.

She ended her time with the office as chief of the criminal division. Before that, she served as chief of the office's financial fraud section and as coordinator of the district's Project Safe Childhood program.

She helped prosecute significant corporate fraud and public corruption cases, such as the criminal trial of William Cellini, who was convicted in 2011 of conspiracy to commit extortion and aiding and abetting the solicitation of a bribe for his role in trying to obtain a $1.5 million campaign contribution for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich from a Hollywood movie producer.

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