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Madigan taps Rauner’s former watchdog to probe House for ‘failures and mistakes’

House Speaker Michael Madigan and former inspector general Maggie Hickey
House Speaker Michael Madigan, left, arrives for a meeting at the Thompson Center in 2016. File Photo| Rich Hein/Sun-Times; Maggie Hickey, right. Photo courtesy of Schiff Hardin.

A former federal prosecutor and state inspector general who is already investigating alleged sexual abuse within Chicago Public Schools will now be tackling another thorny subject: trying to overhaul the workplace culture throughout the Illinois House of Representatives after a string of harassment complaints.

Maggie Hickey, who left Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration in March to join a private law firm, has been handpicked for the job by Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and a group of female lawmakers, according to a statement from the speaker’s office.

In announcing the appointment, the powerful speaker touted Hickey’s expertise in investigating “workplace harassment,” saying it will enable her to “identify past failures and mistakes” and conduct an “independent” investigation.

Hickey will review the operations of the Illinois House of Representatives, including all departments within the speaker’s office and the Office of the House Clerk.

“Ms. Hickey’s reputation for integrity is widely recognized, and her experience in conducting investigations, including instances of workplace harassment, will enable her to identify past failures and mistakes, and recommend reforms and new policies that will create a better culture throughout the operations of the House of Representatives and the General Assembly,” Madigan said in a statement.

Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said Hickey will be paid $500 an hour to conduct the investigation. Brown said the funds will come from the Illinois House operations budget. Brown initially told the Sun-Times there was a cap of $50,000 but later said “the final version of the contract does not have a cap.”

Madigan is still reeling from the abrupt departure of Tim Mapes, clerk of the Illinois House, his chief of staff and the executive director of the Democratic Party of Illinois, amid a whistleblower’s accusations that Mapes made light of harassment allegations, amid other claims.

Mapes’ departure came just a week after Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang stepped down from his leadership positions and his role in the Legislative Ethics Commission after a woman came forward with bullying and harassment allegations.

Madigan last month requested Special Legislative Inspector General Julie Porter investigate his office after state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, alleged retaliation.

Amid claims of sexual abuse within CPS, Hickey in early June was selected by the school district to conduct a top-down review and offer recommendations just before children return to school in August.

When Hickey left Rauner’s administration, the governor said in a statement that “her objectivity and fairness can be a model for public servants.” Hickey helped to lead a health care fraud elimination task force and also led an investigation into the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services that uncovered multiple flaws.

Hickey left the administration to join the Schiff Hardin LLP law firm as a partner.

Hickey also served as an investigative counsel for a U.S. Senate committee and as the chief of staff for former Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, R-Ill. But as a Rauner political appointee, she was blocked by Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, as well as Mayor Rahm Emanuel last year to replace former U.S. Attorney Zach Fardon in the Northern District of Illinois.