Editor's Note: After more than a year of outside investigation, a report has been released surrounding claims of sexual harassment and overall workplace cultural issues within the Illinois House of Representatives, Office of the Speaker. This is Part 4 of a report on the 202-page document.
At a press conference on May 31, 2018, Activist Maryann Loncar made several public allegations against then-Illinois Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie). The report notes that Loncar did not return the calls or agree to an interview to explain, support or expand on her allegations when contacted by Maggie Hickey and her Schiff Hardin LLP investigative team. They instead investigated the interpretation of Loncar’s public accusations against Lang, which included the following:
● Rep. Lang sexually harassed Loncar when they worked on cannabis legislation over five years ago.
● Rep. Lang bullied Loncar after she disagreed with changes to the cannabis legislation and became aware of an alleged attempted bribe of around $170 million.
The report also notes that Loncar’s bribery allegation was outside of the scope of their investigation, which was dedicated solely to workplace discrimination and harassment.
Loncar was a political activist for medical cannabis in Illinois and, at the time her allegations took place, was president of Mother Earth Holistic Health and CEO of Patient’s Health Center.
Lang represented the 16th District from 1987 until he resigned in January 2019. He was also the Assistant Majority Leader from 1997 until 2009, when he then became the Deputy Majority Leader. He served in that role until 2018. When Loncar made her allegations, Lang also had several committee and appointed positions, including on the Legislative Ethics Commission.
“On May 31, 2018—the last day of session for the 100th General Assembly—Ms. Loncar appeared anonymously on the radio show ‘Chicago’s Morning Answer with Dan Proft and Amy Jacobson,’” states the report. “On the show, Ms. Loncar alluded to her allegations against a Democratic representative in leadership and the fact that she would be having a press conference later that day. At the press conference, in the blue room of the Capitol building, Ms. Loncar named then-Representative Lang and clarified her allegations.”
Loncar also provided the press with a one-page document supporting her case, which included the following statements, according to the report:
“Maryann Loncar says Representative Lou Lang committed terrible acts against her while she advocated for a bill that he sponsored. Most of the inappropriate and abusive behaviors occurred at Lincoln Lounge and Globe Room.
1. Threat to ex-husband ‘I can help you bury her if you want.’
2. Hand on lower back below underwear line and said, ‘Does your husband know how lucky he is to have a wife like you?’
3. 8 pm phone call ‘I would have dinner with you if you weren’t with your husband.’
4. Isolated, discredited, blackballed from Springfield. ‘You aren’t allowed back here.’”
Lang immediately denied any allegations, calling them “absurd.” He then requested that then-acting Legislative Inspector General Julie Porter investigate Loncar’s allegations before stepping down from his leadership role and other appointed positions within the House.
The report’s findings cleared Lang of the alleged misconduct, citing the lack of a consistent timeline, overall evidence and cooperation from Loncar.
“We believe there is insufficient evidence to conclude that Representative Lang engaged in wrongdoing,” states the report. “Ms. Loncar has reiterated the seriousness of her allegations and how she feared for her safety. We did not take her allegations lightly, but after interviewing over 100 members of the Capitol workplace, we were unable to find corroborating evidence. Instead, we found Representative Lang’s denials to be credible and consistent. Our investigation was limited by the refusal of various people, including Ms. Loncar, to cooperate with us. It is possible that Ms. Loncar would have been able to provide this evidence, but she chose not to cooperate. Thus, it is not fair to hold Representative Lang accountable for a mere possibility.”
Much like in the review of Rep. Kelly Cassidy’s allegations, the investigation found little evidence to support the accuser’s claims but also cleared Loncar herself from the possibility of any false allegations.
“There is insufficient evidence to conclude that Ms. Loncar deliberately made false allegations. Moreover, the circumstances of her allegations provided room for genuine miscommunication and interpretation.
“By going public, Ms. Loncar highlighted the importance—for the accused, the complainant, and the workplace overall—of having a reliable and trustworthy option for challenging sexual harassment in the Capitol workplace. Until members of the Capitol workplace feel comfortable using such avenues, people will continue to speak out publicly—even if the results are unsatisfying. If nothing else, hopefully this unsatisfactory result will help encourage complainants to come forward with genuine complaints earlier, to cooperate with investigations, and to not fear reprisals if the findings are unfavorable.”