By Monique Garcia and Rick Pearson
A Republican state lawmaker tasked with helping find ways to prevent sexual harassment stepped down Wednesday following a report of accusations he sent nude photos of an ex-girlfriend to other men online.
State Rep. Nick Sauer's resignation came several hours after Politico published a report about the allegations, which reportedly were detailed in complaints filed with the Chicago Police Department and the state legislative inspector general.
In a resignation letter, the Lake Barrington lawmaker wrote that he decided to step down "as a result of the allegations" by "a former girlfriend" but did not address them further beyond calling them "a distraction."
"After speaking with my family, I feel it best to step away from my public responsibilities," he wrote.
Sauer could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Inspector General Julie Porter said she was "not able to talk about current investigations, including whether or not a complaint has been filed."
The matter, though, quickly became political fodder. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner said Sauer's departure was "the right thing to do" but said his political nemesis Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan has fostered a culture of abuse at the Capitol.
Sauer, who was appointed by Rauner to the Illinois Tollway board in 2015, is the first GOP lawmaker to be accused of inappropriate behavior amid a recent string of allegations against Democrats that have felled several top Madigan aides.
"There's no culture that I've created," Rauner said at an unrelated event Wednesday when asked about his past support for Sauer. "Madigan, in the legislature, has created a culture of abuse. People all around him have had to resign because they've been caught."
Madigan chief of staff Jessica Basham said in a statement that the speaker "remains committed and focused on creating a positive culture and safe workplace, free from harassment of any kind."
Basham replaced Madigan's longtime chief of staff Tim Mapes after he resigned this summer. A House employee said she endured years of harassment by Mapes, who also served as executive director of the Democratic Party of Illinois.
Sauer is a first-term lawmaker who had not withdrawn his re-election candidacy as of late Wednesday, according to the State Board of Elections. He was a member of the House Sexual Discrimination and Harassment Task Force that Madigan formed late last year after several dozen women who work in and around Illinois government and politics signed on to an open letter outlining rampant sexual harassment at the Capitol and on the campaign trail.
House Republican leader Jim Durkin called the allegations against Sauer "troubling," saying "we should allow the proper authorities to conduct their investigations."
State Sen. Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, said Sauer "made the right decision to resign his seat" following the "abhorrent" allegations.
"Harassment in any form is unacceptable and I applaud the victim in this case for having the courage to come forward and share her story," McConchie said. "It is incumbent upon all elected officials to hold themselves to the highest ethical standard and to ensure their government provides a harassment-free environment for all."
According to Politico, the accuser said she and Sauer met on a dating app and began a long-distance relationship. She moved to Chicago in 2017, but they broke up in March 2018 after she found out he was seeing other women. She said she later discovered an Instagram account with nude photos of her and said Sauer had been using the photos in conversations with other men.
She contacted the department through the city's 311 center on July 12 to say she was told by someone about a "fraudulent Instagram account" containing "provocative and/or sexually explicit photographs" of her, according to police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.
The accuser told police she once shared those photographs privately with an ex-boyfriend, Guglielmi said, but she did not name the man in her report. A little more than a week later, the detective division picked up the case, Guglielmi said, but he did not say whether it has obtained the photos.
Contacted by the Tribune on Wednesday, the woman said she stood by what Politico reported but was taking time to decide whether to talk further.
The allegations against Sauer are the latest to cast questions on lawmakers and aides as the #MeToo movement seeks to highlight harassment and gender inequality and discrimination in industries across the nation.
In October, victim rights advocate Denise Rotheimer accused Democratic state Sen. Ira Silverstein of using her advocacy for a crime victim rights bill as an opening to pursue a personal relationship.
The inspector general concluded that Silverstein had acted in a way that was unbecoming of a lawmaker but said the case did not rise to the level of sexual harassment. He lost his primary election in March.
In February, the Chicago Tribune disclosed sexual harassment allegations from Alaina Hampton, who was working on Democratic House campaigns and had received aggressive and inappropriate text messages from Kevin Quinn, a top aide in Speaker Madigan's political organization. Madigan then ousted Quinn, the brother of Ald. Marty Quinn, the point man in the speaker's 13th Ward.
Days later, Shaw Decremer -- a lobbyist, former Madigan staffer and top campaign worker -- departed over what one lawmaker labeled abusive actions during House Democratic campaigns.
While Rauner has tried to seize on the issue in an effort to oust Madigan, it has sometimes proved politically tricky.
In her accusations against Mapes, House employee Sherri Garrett said he brushed aside complaints about harassment by lawmakers, including former Democratic Rep. Ken Dunkin of Chicago.
Rauner appointed Dunkin, a former ally, to a $70,000-per-year job on the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District in May. The governor has since called on Dunkin to step down, which he has refused to do.
Chicago Tribune's Jeremy Gorner contributed.
(c)2018 the Chicago Tribune