An ethics lawsuit may factor into next year's U.S. Senate race.
Two employees of the Anna Veterans' Home are suing U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Hoffman Estates), a Democratic candidate looking to challenge U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), claiming their complaints about a superior were ignored by Duckworth during her time as director of the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs.
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The suit alleges Duckworth fired one employee, Christine Butler after complaints about the home's administrator allowing an unauthorized person to care for one of the veterans. The termination was later reversed. Another employee, Denise Goins, claims Duckworth threatened her job, alleging she was told by Duckworth ' If you do your job and keep your mouth shut and concentrate on job duties, you will keep your job."
Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider says Duckworth tried to silence whistleblowers.
"Rep. Duckworth has a responsibility to care for our most vulnerable in Illinois," Schneider said, "but when it came time for her to stand up and protect...the most vulnerable, she did not. Instead, she sought to silence the critics and to protect the bureaucracy and her party."
The case has already been dismissed twice since it was first filed in 2009, with a federal judge calling it "a garden variety workplace case." A preliminary date for the Union County trial has been set for April 4, 2016, a few weeks after the Illinois primary.
While Duckworth's campaign has declined to comment on the case, Democratic Party of Illinois senior adviser Matt McGrath feels Republicans are trying to distract from Kirk's recent controversial comments, like comparing the Iran nuclear deal to appeasement of Adolf Hitler.
"Illinois Republicans are apparently humoring Senator Kirk after a week ago one of their leading fundraisers called on him to exit the race while saying he couldn’t win. Illinois families will not be fooled by this transparent attempt to change the subject from Senator Kirk’s badly struggling campaign," McGrath said.
Schneider says whatever one fundraiser may have said, the party is fully backing Kirk, and his comments are not comparable to the alleged actions of Duckworth if you're considering the character of the candidates.
"What Sen. Kirk did in many cases were just off the cuff remarks," Schneider said, adding that he often has to apologize to his own wife about similar comments.