A day after Toni Preckwinkle adjusted the timeline of when she says she first heard claims of questionable behavior by a top aide, political opponents slammed the Cook County Board President for not taking swifter action.
State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, introduced a House resolution Friday calling on the County Board to investigate Preckwinkle’s “egregious” six-month delay between when Preckwinkle says “an unsubstantiated rumor” was brought to her attention, and when she forced her chief of staff John Keller to resign.
“The story keeps changing,” McSweeney said. “It’s serious stuff, and I think it certainly is the right of the citizens to get all the information.”
Preckwinkle’s office first announced Keller’s abrupt departure the night of Sept. 18, saying he had resigned “for personal reasons.” The next day, Preckwinkle put out another statement revealing she had forced Keller out over allegations of “inappropriate and disrespectful behavior.”
At a Sept. 20 event launching her run for Chicago mayor, Preckwinkle credited herself with taking swift action within a few days of receiving the allegation. She twice insisted to reporters that she wasn’t aware of any previous accusations against Keller.
But she changed her tune on Thursday after a Chicago Tribune report detailed how she’d been tipped off back in March to claims of her aide’s misbehavior. A woman told the newspaper she was grabbed inappropriately by Keller, who apologized for making the woman “uncomfortable” but denied wrongdoing.
“The most alarming thing to me about this situation is that she saw what was going on in Springfield and what was going on nationally with the #MeToo movement,” said McSweeney, whose northwest suburban district stretches into Cook County. “We should have heightened awareness of misconduct at all times, but this was the No. 1 story in the nation, and she still did nothing about it.”
Asked for comment on McSweeney’s resolution, a Preckwinkle spokeswoman passed along the same statement the County Board president issued on Thursday.
“In March, I received an unsubstantiated rumor. No victim came forward, and there was nothing I could act on. In September, I received an allegation that was corroborated, and I acted immediately,” Preckwinkle said.
Preckwinkle has declined to answer the Chicago Sun-Times’ questions about the discrepancies in her accounts of the matter.
The Hyde Park Democrat has asked the county inspector general to investigate Keller’s tenure, but McSweeney claims that’s not enough.
“I think it has to be independent of her machine,” said McSweeney, who also called on Preckwinkle to resign.
Former Chicago Police Board President Lori Lightfoot piled on her mayoral competitor as well, saying the issue was “bigger than Toni Preckwinkle’s shielding of John Keller.
“It’s about a toxic culture that starts at the top, and that puts women at risk. We need leaders who will reject this culture and instead build a transparent and accountable City Hall that serves the people, not the broken political machine,” Lightfoot said.