Treasurer Dan Rutherford delivered a forceful, even believable defense of himself last week during a suburban news conference hours after he was hit with a federal lawsuit alleging sexual harassment and coerced campaign work.
Rutherford made a strong case that at least some of the accusations are untrue. There were some holes in his argument, some bigger than others, but it seems obvious that some of the charges are overblown.
For instance, the accuser Ed Michalowski claims in his lawsuit that all the campaign and sexual pressure from Rutherford directly resulted in “leakage of cerebral spinal fluid in the brain,” which seems more than a bit of a stretch. And Rutherford laid out Michalowski’s numerous financial troubles in an attempt to demonstrate that the plaintiff’s need for money was driving much of the lawsuit.
That being said, I’ve had some real worries about Rutherford’s so-called “independent” internal investigation of these allegations.
Rutherford’s top people have been saying for weeks that they fully expected the investigation would clear their guy.
I’ve also been concerned that Rutherford would use the so-called “independent” investigation to find out what people in his office were saying about him to help with his lawsuit.
The investigator interviewed several people, starting with some treasurer’s office employees who allowed Michalowski to use their names as either witnesses or corroborators.
The first person to be interviewed brought a recording device and recorded his interview. He reportedly laid out all the goods he had on Rutherford, and it wasn’t pretty.
And then he dropped a bomb. Rutherford’s attorney announced last week that he would not allow the release of information gleaned from that internal investigation. The attorney explained that the office shouldn’t be releasing information while a federal lawsuit is underway,
The explanation has little merit. It’s not wise for a defendant in a federal civil suit to be releasing details of an internal investigation. But Rutherford was not yet legally prohibited from doing so, and he and his staff promised over and over for weeks that the results would be released no matter what.
Despite all his protestations to the contrary, the treasurer will undoubtedly wind up using all those employee interviews to glean information for his legal team about what the other side knows and where the potential mine fields are.
That’s just not acceptable.
If he continues to refuse to release this information, despite all his promises, what does that say about the sort of governor Rutherford would be?
This smacks of a cover-up. If the treasurer wants to retain a shred of credibility moving forward, he ought to overrule his attorney and release the information, come what may.
• Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.