Once accused Democratic State Reps. Welch, Rita stay mum on #MeToo
Amidst calls for resignations and investigations over Springfield’s alleged culture of sexual harassment, two longtime state representatives are remaining silent.
State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch (D-Hillside) and State Rep. Robert Rita (D-Blue Island) haven’t joined the “Me Too” chorus calling for change.
Perhaps that’s because both men have themselves faced domestic battery charges in the past— actual ones that led to public police reports and court proceedings.
Their experiences were a far cry from the tempered accountability of today’s “movement,” mostly relegated—so far— to anonymous whispers and suspicious resignations.
Rita, 48, was first running for office in 2002 when he was charged with misdemeanor domestic battery and criminal trespassing, after his ex-girlfriend said he attacked her in his Evergreen Park home.
She claimed Rita was angry because she had called one of his cousins to ask him to help keep Rita away from her.
A jury found Rita not guilty of the charges, but extended an order of protection against him for the ex-girlfriend, who claimed he forced his way into her house before kicking her, grabbing her by the hair, banging her head against the wall then “throwing her onto the floor, getting on top of her and threatening to rape her,” according to a Chicago Tribune report.
“I’m glad this is behind me and I’m off to Springfield to take care of my constituents,” Rita told the Associated Press after the verdict.
“Slammed her head on backwards on the countertop multiple times”
Also in 2002, Hillside police arrested Welch, a plaintiff’s lawyer who today represents the near West Cook County suburbs, for allegedly beating his girlfriend.
A police report described a “verbal altercation” that became physical after Welch allegedly “grabbed her hair with both hands and proceeded to slam her head backwards several times on the countertop.”
“(The victim) attempted to leave the residence through the front door and then the rear door but was blocked by Welch with his body. Not knowing what else to do, she attempted to use the phone to call police. Welch then prevented her from doing that also,” the report said.
The victim told police Welch became enraged after she called him a “loser.”
She initially told police she wanted to “sign complaints for domestic battery” but said she decided not to do so after speaking with Welch’s stepmother.
Welch told police she made up the story and was simply upset over their breakup.
The police report describing Welch’s alleged battery was withheld from public view by Village of Hillside officials until after he was elected to office in 2012.
Welch’s political career was initially backed by Hillside Mayor Joseph Tamburino.
Staunch Madigan supporters
Rita and Welch’s careers are themselves intertwined, with all roads leading to House Speaker Michael J. Madigan (D-Chicago).
Both have been devoted and loyal to Madigan. And Madigan has been loyal back.
Rita’s 2002 episode put the Speaker at odds with his then-first time Attorney General candidate daughter, Lisa.
She had called for Rita’s resignation— ending domestic violence was a core plank of her campaign— while Speaker Madigan remained a staunch supporter of Rita, refusing to withdraw his support.
Rita comes from a family of Cook County Democrat machine politicians and Madigan supporters. A longtime employee of the Cook County Highway Department, he moonlights as the supervisor of Calumet Township, a job he took over from his late mother, Rose Rita.
Rita’s late father, John Rita, Sr., once served as mayor of Blue Island. Rose also served as a Blue Island alderman.
Robert’s brother, John Rita, Jr., retired from Cook County, now earns $90,000 working for the city of Blue Island. His sister is a Blue Island alderman who works for Cook County.
As reported by the Better Government Association, the City of Blue Island gets its health insurance from Mesirow Financial, which employs Madigan’s son, Andrew.
Blue Island also uses Welch’s law firm— Sanchez, Daniels and Hoffman of Chicago. Welch’s wife, ShawnTe Raines, serves as city attorney of Blue Island.
When Welch faced a credible primary challenge in 2014 from Maywood business owner Toni Gray, Madigan came to the rescue.
Shaw DeCremer, a top Madigan aide who was recently fired over allegations of “inappropriate behavior,” challenged Gray’s nominating petitions and got her disqualified.
In 2016, DeCremer came to the rescue again, when Welch’s petitions were challenged and he was accused of filling them with fraudulent signatures.
According to Illinois State Board of Elections records, Madigan and political committees he controls have donated $75,823 to Rita over his career and $100,841 to Welch.
DeCremer has donated $500 to Rita and $250 to Welch.