IDES worker suspended one week after woman who applied for jobless benefits accused him of sexual assault

Illinois Capitol News

EFFINGHAM, Ill. (NEXSTAR) — In a watchdog report published earlier this year, the Illinois Office of the Executive Inspector General outlined serious allegations made in 2018 against a state worker at the Department of Employment Security.

A woman, whose name was redacted from the report, accused Illinois Department of Employment Security employee Charley Holstein of hitting on her in the parking lot of the Effingham unemployment office, following her to her bus stop, and offering to give her a ride home.

She initially declined his overtures because she “felt uncomfortable,” the report reads, but she also worried he could deny her unemployment benefits, or wondered if he could help her land a job.

The next day, Holstein “asked if he could take her to lunch.”

According to the woman’s statement provided to the OEIG, “Charley picked her up at her apartment complex and when she got in the car, there was a gun inside.”

She claimed Holstein “gave her approximately one gram of marijuana and three yellow colored marijuana pills before taking her back to her apartment,” and told investigators she thought he wanted sex in exchange for giving her the marijuana.

Days later, in a second encounter, she claimed Holstein “…told her she should take three pills and relax.” She told state inspectors she only took one pill. That’s when she claims he sexually assaulted her inside her apartment.

Two days later, she was admitted to the hospital, but said she did not report the assault while at the hospital and had intended to “let it go.”

Three weeks later, she reported the assault to local police, but it was too late for a conclusive medical exam that could corroborate her story. Police said she provided no physical evidence that could help them prove she was assaulted. Police did not pursue the case any further and Holstein was not charged with a crime.

Holstein admitted he had sex with her on two separate occasions, but in written statements, he denied ever giving her drugs or assaulting her.

While state investigators found the woman’s story “compelling” and said her timeline “was largely corroborated by IDES records,” police officers wrote in their report that they could not find physical evidence to substantiate that a sexual assault occurred.

In contrast, the OEIG report identified several holes in Holstein’s story, which he provided in writing to the agency’s Labor Relations manager.

For example, while he met her at a state unemployment office where he worked, he denied he knew she was there seeking unemployment benefits. He also claimed she called him at late hours of the night, and denied initiating contact with her.

“This denial, however, is not credible,” the report reads, finding “cellular phone records contradicted many of those statements.”

After a review process, the OEIG determined the claim of sexual assault was “unfounded” due to a lack of witnesses or evidence, but determined Holstein made false statements and “violated the IDES and Illinois Codes of Personal Conduct when he initiated a romantic relationship on State property during the work day with a member of the public who received services and benefits from his employing agency.”

The OEIG recommended IDES discipline or terminate Holstein. After disciplinary proceedings, the agency moved to suspend Holstein for one week without pay.

Holstein could not be reached for this story, but told state investigators he “absolutely” conducted himself “in a professional manner.”

IDES supervisors never interviewed Holstein in person about the matter and allowed him to submit all of his answers to the agency in writing.

“IDES chose not to interview or have any face-to-face discussions with Mr. Holstein or [the woman],” Assistant Inspector General Kelly Fasbinder wrote. “Instead, IDES requested Mr. Holstein provide written answers to seven questions limited in nature. The serious nature of this type of allegation, requires a more thorough inquiry.

“Simply asking an employee to fill out written answers to minimal questions likely provides decision
makers with little meaningful information and can also send a message that such alleged conduct
is of little concern to the agency,” Fasbinder said. “Additionally, not having any specific policies regarding employee/client relations fails to recognize the power differential between IDES employees and clients and fails to provide the necessary guidance to employees.”

At the recommendation of the OEIG, the state’s unemployment agency is pledging to negotiate more stringent investigative rules with into union contracts for state workers to allow for more a rigorous interview process when state workers are accused of serious wrongdoing.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story said the OEIG report was published on December 23rd, 2020. It appears an initial report may have been published online weeks prior to that date.

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