The Illinois legislature’s top watchdog wrote that “evidence does not support” abuse complaints against a former top deputy of Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, after the woman who made the accusations didn’t participate in the resulting investigation.
Former medical marijuana advocate Maryann Loncar at a Capitol news conference in May accused Democratic state Rep. Lou Lang of Skokie of retaliation, verbal abuse and “inappropriate behavior.” Lang held his own news conference right afterward, calling the accusations “absurd” and asking the legislative inspector general for an investigation.
In a letter to Lang on Wednesday, Inspector General Julie Porter wrote that she attempted to reach Loncar via mail, email and Facebook but that “she has declined to respond to my overtures.” Porter did interview Lang and other witnesses.
“Because a preponderance of evidence does not support Loncar’s allegations that you engaged in misconduct, I am closing the matter,” Porter wrote.
Loncar on Thursday said she would comment at a later time. In May, she said she didn’t report the behavior in real time, noting Lang’s influence in Springfield.
“Where was I going to go? Was I going to go to the speaker, who sits right next to Lou Lang?” she said. “Was I going to go to the ethics committee, with him sitting on it? Was I? Do any of you know what that feels like? To be humiliated? To not have anywhere to go?”
In the immediate wake of the allegations, Lang resigned his deputy majority leader post in the Illinois House, where he has served since 1987. A Madigan spokesman did not say whether Lang would get the spot back. Lang is running for re-election in November and has no opponent.
Lang didn’t respond to requests for comment, but in a statement said, “I have been vindicated, and this matter is now closed.”
Loncar’s accusations arrived on the final day of a tumultuous spring session in which Madigan’s leadership repeatedly came under fire as women detailed what they said was a culture of gender discrimination and harassment in the veteran speaker’s political and government organizations.
Loncar accused Lang of years of harassment after they initially met while she was pushing legislation to legalize medical marijuana, a proposal Lang sponsored and former Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law in 2013.
Loncar said that during negotiations surrounding that bill, she was exiting a meeting with Lang when he put his hand on her lower back and asked if her husband “knew how lucky he is to have a wife like you.” Asked if she considered that sexual harassment, Loncar said, “I do.”
Lang denied it happened, and without talking to Loncar, “I do not have sufficient evidence that such occurrences, if they even happened, constituted sexual harassment,” according to Porter’s letter
More recently, Loncar said that in May 2017, Lang called her now-former husband and said he “can help you bury her if you want.” Loncar said she considered that comment a threat.
Porter wrote that she interviewed other witnesses. “Speaking generally, the interviews corroborated your assertions that you did not threaten to bury Loncar,” she wrote to Lang.
Loncar’s accusations against Lang came amid part of a string of allegations against Madigan allies. Days after her news conference, the speaker ousted his longtime chief of staff Tim Mapes after a House staff member accused the top aide of sexual harassment over several years and fostering “a culture of sexism, harassment and bullying that creates an extremely difficult working environment.”
Joining Loncar at her initial news conference was Denise Rotheimer, who sent shock waves through the Illinois political establishment last fall when she accused longtime Democratic Sen. Ira Silverstein of sexual harassment.
Porter determined that Silverstein did not engage in sexual harassment but “did behave in a manner unbecoming of a legislator.” Silverstein, who is married to 50th Ward Ald. Debra Silverstein, lost a re-election bid to his Far North Side and north suburban seat in the March primary.
In February, the Chicago Tribune disclosed aggressive and inappropriate text messages from Kevin Quinn, a top Madigan political and state government aide, to Alaina Hampton, who was working on House campaigns.
Madigan ousted Quinn, the brother of Ald. Marty Quinn, the political point man in the speaker’s long-held 13th Ward on Chicago’s Southwest Side. Hampton has filed a federal lawsuit, saying she was deprived of chances to advance in the speaker’s political organization as a result of the harassment.
That same month, Madigan bounced from his political organization lobbyist Shaw Decremer, a key political and campaign organizer who formerly worked as a ranking member of Madigan’s state government staff.
Madigan serves as chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party. He has resisted calls to step down over his handling of the allegations but has said he takes “responsibility” for not doing more.
And, last month, a Republican state lawmaker tasked with helping find ways to prevent sexual harassment stepped down following a report of accusations he sent nude photos of an ex-girlfriend to other men online.