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North Side State Sen. Ira Silverstein Accused of Sexual Harassment

By Heather Cherone | October 31, 2017 12:59pm | Updated on October 31, 2017 1:05pm
 Denise Rotheimer, a state lobbyist (left) said state Sen. Ira Silverstein harassed her, prompting her to seek medical treatment.
Denise Rotheimer, a state lobbyist (left) said state Sen. Ira Silverstein harassed her, prompting her to seek medical treatment.
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CHICAGO — A state lobbyist said Tuesday during a hearing on sexual harassment in Illinois politics that she had been repeatedly harassed by North Side state Sen. Ira Silverstein and required medical attention to cope with its impact.

Silverstein, a Democrat who represents parts of Edgebrook, Forest Glen, North Park and West Ridge, denied the allegations in a series of media interviews. But he said he would "apologize" if he had made Denise Rotheimer, the founder of a group called Mothers on a Mission to Stop Violence and a candidate for the Illinois House in Grayslake, "uncomfortable."

Rotheimer told the committee Silverstein's behavior caused her hair to fall out, lose 20 pounds and eventually admit herself to a hospital.

"He had so much power over me," Rotheimer said.

Rotheimer told the committee Silverstein would frequently comment on her appearance and contact her by phone and social media late at night. After the hearing, Rotheimer played a voicemail message she said Silverstein left her. In it, a man tells her she has been "working on her six pack."

When Silverstein thought she had a boyfriend, Rotheimer alleged that the state senator moved to kill a bill she was pushing.

"I want him to answer for it and to know that it is wrong," Rotheimer said, referring to Silverstein. "It is unconscionable."

Rotheimer became involved in state politics after her daughter, Jasmine Jimenez, was raped. "Jasmine's Law," authored by Rotheimer, increased penalties for violent sex offenders.

Silverstein said he would wait for a report from the General Assembly's ethics commission before discussing the allegations in detail. Silverstein has represented the 8th District in the Illinois Senate since 1999. He is married to 50th Ward Ald. Debra Silverstein.

Ald. Silverstein declined to comment Tuesday at City Hall on the allegations against her husband.

During a hearing about a proposal to toughen the penalties for lawmakers found to have sexually harassed co-workers, Rotheimer said she filed a complaint against Silverstein a year ago with the office of Senate President John Cullerton, who said the complaint was referred to the Legislative Inspector General’s Office.

The position of legislative inspector general has been vacant for years. Speaker of the House Michael Madigan promised Tuesday to fill that position.

After the committee hearing, Madigan said Rotheimer's allegations should be investigated.

Rotheimer is seeking the Republican nomination for the 62nd District seat in the Illinois House now held by Democrat Sam Yingling, of Grayslake.