The Illinois Department of Labor has found reason to believe there was a state labor violation by Knox County prosecutor John Pepmeyer's office.
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A state agency investigating a complaint against Knox County State’s Attorney John Pepmeyer’s office has concluded there is reasonable cause to believe a state labor law was violated.
The Illinois Department of Labor is investigating a complaint by Teresa Cummings, one of three female employees who have accused Pepmeyer of sexual harassment and mishandling files.
A hearing on the issue eventually will be held before an administrative law judge with the labor department, Grant Gulovsen, an attorney for Cummings, said Thursday. A hearing date has not been set.
Gulovsen said Cummings alleges Pepmeyer’s office violated the Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act (VESSA), which allows victims of domestic or sexual violence, including stalking, to take up to 12 weeks off work in a year to address those issues.
Cummings needed the time off to deal with an issue "related to her employment," Gulovsen said. He declined to elaborate further.
"The decision by the department is not a finding that there was a violation of VESSA," Gulovsen said. "It is merely a finding that there is reasonable cause that VESSA has been violated," he said.
Bob Michels, an attorney for Pepmeyer, did not return a call for comment Thursday.
Pepmeyer, Knox County and the state of Illinois are being sued by Cummings,
Jennifer Brown and Constance Griffith. They alleged dozens of instances of sexual harassment in an April court filing including inappropriate touching, offers to "get naked" and references to sexual intercourse.
Pepmeyer has denied any sexual harassment, calling the claims "political revenge" against him.
After the allegations became public, Pepmeyer accused former Knox County Sheriff Jim Thompson and former Knox County State’s Attorney Paul Mangieri of financial misconduct. Both have denied any wrongdoing. Records from both offices are being audited.
Another lawsuit has been filed by Dean Stone, Mike Kraycinovich and Tracy Jones, three assistant state’s attorneys who were fired by Pepmeyer in March. Jones also alleges sexual harassment in the suit.
An attorney for the three assistant state’s attorneys said they were fired after taking steps to stop the sexual harassment of the three women.
Pepmeyer recently appealed a decision by Judge Ed Danner to have the Illinois Attorney General’s Office and former McDonough County State’s Attorney William Poncin investigate as special prosecutors in the case.
Pepmeyer also asked that the attorney general’s office be barred from convening a grand jury or taking any action against him while his appeal is pending.
Pepmeyer’s appeal won’t be heard by the Third District Appellate Court until next year.