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House Democratic women meet with Alaina Hampton behind closed doors

Alaina Hampton held this news conference in February to discuss her complaints against Kevin Quinn, brother of Ald. Marty Quinn and an aide to House Speaker Mike Madigan. She now wants the city inspector general to investigate Ald. Quinn. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

SPRINGFIELD—Democratic women of the Illinois House on Wednesday held a closed door meeting at the Capitol with Alaina Hampton — the woman whose accusations of harassment led to the firing of a top political aide to Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan.

And while Hampton shared her perspective, women legislators are trying to look forward and introduce new legislation to help combat sexual harassment — and also to help empower women in politics.

Hampton’s detailing of unwanted advances from Kevin Quinn — the brother of Ald. Marty Quinn — not only led to his firing but also got the powerful speaker to admit he hasn’t done enough to combat sexual harassment. Days later, another Madigan aide was ousted for “​inappropriate behavior” toward a candidate and staff during the 2016 election​.

Wednesday marked the second time the Democratic women of the House had met. They also met last Friday for a nearly two-hour discussion with Madigan at a Chicago law firm, according to State Rep. Ann Williams, D-Chicago.

“The broader context is to ensure that any legislation that comes out of part of a final package has the input of women around the Capitol who are impacted and will be impacted by the policies we implement,” Williams said.

Williams said the caucus plans to meet with female staffers, former female staffers, current lobbyists and other women at the Capitol to get their perspective.

“When dealing with sexual harassment or claims or discrimination, we just want to do our due diligence with the women that are being impacted and advocating for their needs,” Williams said.

Williams said the group plans to draft legislation not only about sexual harassment policies but also to help advance women in politics.

Madigan’s handling of sexual harassment complaints came under fire after Hampton revealed her story. The speaker, days later, wrote a letter to Democratic members and staffers, saying he’d create a process in which victims of harassment could reach out to attorneys he provided or be referred to outside resources. In a letter to Democratic caucus members, state and political staffers, Madigan last week also wrote that it’s time to “rethink the culture of politics.”

“We haven’t done enough. I take responsibility for that,” Madigan said. “I would never condone, sweep under the rug or refuse to take any step to ensure we did not eradicate any behavior of this kind.

Madigan also announced the creation of a panel, made up of U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza, and State Rep. Carol Ammons, D-Urbana, to “take the lead on facilitating a statewide discussion about the role of women in the Democratic Party of Illinois.” The three this week vowed to be independent of the state party and its leaders.

The speaker on Tuesday released a list of nine misconduct complaints that he says demonstrates his office has been there for potential harassment victims and has handled cases “according to protocol.”

And despite growing criticism, Madigan said he has no plans to step down.

Compiled during an internal review, the list outlines nine staff complaints received from within the speaker’s 250-employee office since 2013 “concerning discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment or retaliation,” the document says.

A growing number of leaders across the state — including from within Madigan’s own party, which he has ruled for decades — have called for an outside investigation of the speaker’s office. Others have called for him to step down from the House.

Madigan dismissed many of the calls for his resignation as maneuvering by politicians “who support the [Gov. Bruce ] Rauner radical right agenda.”

But he said he would welcome an independent probe.

“I’m prepared to cooperate with any inquiry.”