A former top Exelon lobbyist in Springfield was found to have sexually harassed a colleague multiple times in a “particularly intrusive and unsettling” manner, according to a new decision from the Illinois Executive Ethics Commission.
David Fein, a former top lobbyist for Exelon Generation, the company that manages its nuclear fleet, lost his job in 2019 when the allegations against him were first raised with his superiors and later became public in a report by Crain’s Chicago Business.
Shortly thereafter, the secretary of state inspector general opened an investigation into Fein’s conduct as a lobbyist. That probe reached its conclusion Wednesday when the state ethics panel levied $6,000 in fines against the former utility executive and suspended his lobbyist registration through the end of the year.
Fein, who was registered as an Exelon Generation lobbyist between 2012 and 2019, could not be reached for comment, and messages sent to his attorneys were not returned.
The state actions against Fein come as Exelon has faced increased scrutiny from state legislators and Gov. JB Pritzker over its demand for state subsidies to rescue its nuclear power plants and amid a lobbying corruption scandal involving its subsidiary, Commonwealth Edison.
The scourge of sexual harassment came to a head in Springfield several years ago amid a national focus on a culture of sexual discrimination and harassment in various industries, including the Illinois statehouse.
Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan came under intense criticism for not doing enough to address text messages and unwanted advances a campaign worker made toward a colleague, who ended up settling a civil suit against his political organization.
The report released Wednesday following an investigation by Secretary of State Inspector General Paul Thompson focused on two interactions in 2019 between Fein and a female Exelon employee who reported to him during visits to Springfield.
On one occasion, in March of that year, Fein, the female employee and others had gathered in a hotel bar after a legislative hearing, and he praised her work and “told her how wonderful and attractive she was,” the report said.
After the gathering broke up, the female employee returned to her room and at about 2 a.m. Fein knocked on her door and asked to be let in. She did so because he was her superior, the report said.
“Once inside [the woman’s] hotel room, [Fein] stated that he and his wife had separated and that he found [her] attractive. He put his hand on her leg and tried to kiss her.
[She] told [Fein], “You’ve got to leave,” which he did,” the report said.
The next morning, Fein approached the woman, explained he had been drunk and that there was “no excuse” for his conduct to which she responded, “That’s right, there is no excuse for that,” the report said.
Roughly five weeks later, in late April 2019, at another Springfield hotel bar, the same woman left a gathering of company employees to return to her room and as she was getting on the elevator, Fein followed her, the report said.
“As [she] reached her floor and began to exit the elevator, [Fein] put his hands on [her] face and tried to kiss or hug her,” the report said. “[She] told him to stop, pulled away from him, and left the elevator.”
The report said Exelon’s human resources department became aware at some point during the first half of 2019 that Fein “may have engaged in conduct with certain Exelon employees that violated” Exelon’s sexual harassment policies.
The company didn’t fire Fein, however, until late August of 2019, one day after the Crain’s report was published, which triggered the state investigation, the report said.
The report said the woman “felt offended, sexually harassed, oppressed, and placed at professional risk by [Fein’s] wrongful actions toward her. His conduct, both in March and April 2019, put her in a situation where her workplace successes could be misperceived as being based on inappropriate personal conduct rather than merit. Further, [she] found [his] conduct to be wrong, unwelcome, grossly inappropriate, offensive, and improper.”
The report said Fein cooperated in the investigation and admitted to the allegations.
Exelon confirmed late Wednesday that it no longer employs Fein but would not comment on specific allegations contained in the report.
“Creating a culture that is open and inclusive, where everyone feels safe and respected, is what we aspire to every day at Exelon,” the company statement said. “We thoroughly investigate allegations of behavior that are not aligned with our corporate values, and take appropriate action.”
Dave McKinney and Tony Arnold cover Illinois politics and government for WBEZ. Follow them on Twitter @davemckinney and @tonyjarnold.