An Illinois state lawmaker stepped down after he was accused of posting a former girlfriend's nude photos on social media to "catfish" other men. Picture: Reuters/Leah Millis

Illinois - An Illinois state lawmaker stepped down on Wednesday after he was accused of posting a former girlfriend's nude photos on an Instagram account to "catfish" other men.

State Rep. Nick Sauer, a first-term Republican and member of a task force combating sexual harassment, announced his resignation hours after Politico reported on the allegations from his ex-girlfriend, Kate Kelly.

In a complaint filed with the state's Office of the Legislative Inspector General, Kelly accused Sauer of sharing private naked photos and personal details about her on a fake Instagram account to lure men into "graphic conversations of a sexual nature," Politico reported. Sauer allegedly used the account to send direct messages to men, "who believed they were communicating with me," Kelly wrote in the document obtained by Politico.

The report prompted Illinois lawmakers and the governor to call for Sauer's resignation.

"As a result of the allegations by Kate Kelly, a former girlfriend, I have decided to resign my office as the State Representative for the 51st District in the Illinois General Assembly," Sauer wrote in a letter Wednesday to John Hollman, acting clerk of the Illinois House of Representatives. "It is important that the citizens of the 51st District be fully represented. My ability to fulfil my obligations as a State Representative and public servant will be affected by the distraction of addressing these allegations."

"After speaking with my family, I feel it is best to step away from my public responsibilities," Sauer added. His resignation was effective by 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Julie B. Porter, the acting legislative inspector general, could not immediately be reached to confirm details of the complaint from Kelly. Porter told the Chicago Tribune she was "not able to talk about current investigations, including whether or not a complaint has been filed."

On July 12, Kelly contacted Chicago police to report that she was told by someone about a "fraudulent Instagram account" containing "provocative and/or sexually explicit photographs" of her, Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told the Chicago Tribune. She did not name Sauer in the report, but told police she once shared the photographs privately with a former boyfriend, the Chicago Tribune reported. The claims are under investigation.

Under Illinois law, it is a felony to disseminate "private sexual images" without a person's consent. However, no charges have been filed against Sauer.

Kelly and Sauer began dating in 2016 after meeting on the dating app Tinder, she told Politico. In June 2017, she moved to Chicago to be nearer to him. But they broke up in March of this year, after Kelly found out Sauer was seeing other women.

Last month, a stranger reached out to Kelly on her real Instagram account, telling her he had been "communicating for 4 months with someone pretending" to be Kelly, Politico reported, citing the complaint filed with the Legislative Inspector General's office. Sauer ultimately admitted to "catfishing" at least eight men using Kelly's photos over the course of two years, Kelly wrote in the complaint.

Kelly told Politico she was "sickened" by the "betrayal."

The allegations against Sauer are the latest in a series of sexual harassment accusations to hit Illinois's state capitol. In October, as people across numerous industries came forward with #MeToo stories, dozens of women in Illinois politics signed an open letter detailing harassment they had experienced through their work.

Following the signing of the letter, longtime House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Democrat, formed a House Sexual Discrimination and Harassment Task Force, of which Sauer was a member.

Since then, a number of Madigan's aides have been ousted amid allegations of inappropriate behaviour. In February, Madigan removed a top aide after the Chicago Tribune reported on sexual harassment allegations from a woman who was working on Democratic House campaigns. Soon after, a lobbyist and former Madigan staffer resigned after a lawmaker accused him of abusive behaviour, according to the Tribune. In June, Madigan's chief of staff was ousted after a speaker's office employee accused him publicly of harassment and bullying.

Though Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, called for Sauer's resignation Wednesday, he also sought to blame Madigan for fostering an inappropriate environment.

"Madigan, in the legislature, has created a culture of abuse," Rauner said at an unrelated event. "People all around him have had to resign because they've been caught."

Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin called the allegations against Sauer "troubling." "We should allow the proper authorities to conduct their investigations," Durkin said.

Democratic state Sen. Melinda Bush, co-chair of the senate's harassment task force, told WGN News that if the allegations are true, "this goes beyond harassment. We're crossing the line into predatory and criminal areas."

Sauer was elected to a two-year term in 2016 and had been running for reelection this year. He had not withdrawn his candidacy as of early Thursday, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections.

Before his election as state representative, Sauer served on a local county board and as a Forest Preserve Commissioner. Rauner also appointed him to serve as a director on the Illinois Tollway Board, according to Sauer's website.

When running for office, Sauer promoted himself as a candidate that would champion "ethical leadership."

"As our State Representative, Nick will have the strength of character and strong will to support measures that will bring back Illinois," his website stated.

The Washington Post