A whistleblower whose #MeToo allegations prompted Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan to fire a longtime political operative has put another big spotlight on a former Madigan staffer, detailing in a federal document an allegation that the ex-staffer sexually harassed two women — “but nothing was done in response.”
The allegation against Travis Shea, detailed in Alaina Hampton’s federal lawsuit against the Democratic Party of Illinois and Madigan, claims Shea, who is now a lobbyist, “sexually harassed and/or assaulted” two women.
The claim was enough for Madigan’s office to release a detailed statement on Tuesday evening, which stated that while Democratic House officials took action to address the allegations last year, the speaker himself had no knowledge of the claims of inappropriate behavior.
“Had the allegations been brought to the Speaker at the time, he would have terminated any employment relationship with Mr. Shea, as he has done on other occasions upon learning of such incidents,” the statement said.
In the federal document, Hampton’s lawyers were responding to a question about their claim that defendants “have ignored and/or disregarded other reports of sexual harassment of female employees and volunteers working for the [Defendants].”
In response, Hampton’s lawyers said “she [Hampton] came to learn that other females employed by the Speaker had been sexually harassed and/or assaulted by a male co-worker, Travis Shea,” the document alleges. “Both females reported Travis Shea’s sexual harassment and/or assault directly to attorney Heather Weir Vaught but nothing was done in response. In fact, Mr. Shea remained on the Speaker’s staff for an additional two years thereafter. Plaintiff’s investigation continues.”
Shea is now a lobbyist at Michael Best Strategies. According to his profile, Shea focuses on the state budget, state bonding, capital budgeting, economic development and gaming. He previously served as an analyst for the speaker, but also worked for the Democratic Party of Illinois on campaigns across the state.
The statement from Madigan’s office claims a former staffer told the Ethics Officer that a male staffer “had attempted to intimidate her, including making such claims as he would ruin her career when she ended their personal relationship.”
Madigan in February 2018 released a list of nine misconduct complaints that he said demonstrated his office had been there for potential harassment victims and had handled cases “according to protocol.”
That list, which did not identify any of the potential victims or those they accused, came after Hampton went public with allegations that Kevin Quinn — a younger brother of Ald. Marty Quinn (13th) — sent her barrages of unwanted text messages while she worked on a campaign. Madigan fired Kevin Quinn, and soon terminated Shaw Decremer, a prominent campaign consultant, for “inappropriate behavior” toward a candidate and staff.
In response to Hampton’s federal court allegation about Shea, the speaker’s office on Tuesday confirmed two incidents detailed in the February 2018 list of complaints involved Shea, whom the speaker’s office now named.
“Both women were consulted prior to the release and requested confidentiality,” the statement said. “To date, neither has given permission to disclose any personal or identifying information.”
Madigan’s office also confirmed that between 2015 and 2016, Heather Wier Vaught was contacted with allegations of “workplace intimidation” against Shea, once in a personal setting and another in her official capacity as the House Democratic Ethics Officer.
“Each woman alleged Mr. Shea had intimidated them and threatened to ‘make or break’ their careers,” the statement said.
“Former Chief of Staff, Tim Mapes, and Mr. Shea’s supervisor, Jessica Basham, were immediately notified of Mr. Shea’s alleged behavior. Mr. Mapes met with Mr. Shea, and he was told the alleged behavior must immediately cease,” the statement said. “He was reprimanded and advised such alleged behavior would not be tolerated. Additionally, Ms. Basham met with Mr. Shea and made it clear he was not in a supervisory role and told he would not be given additional responsibilities.”
Most notably, the statement alleges Madigan “was not made aware of the allegations.”
Asked why the speaker hadn’t been notified of the allegations, spokesman Steve Brown said officials believed “they handled it appropriately.”
“I think at that time, and this is what, four years ago, maybe a little bit longer, when some of these kinds of incidents occurred, in this particular case, I think staff believed they handled it appropriately,” Brown said.
But the Madigan spokesman added, “I think he’s shown over the last year or so, that maybe he could have handled it differently.”
Madigan in late February 2018 sent a letter to legislators, addressing the firing of Kevin Quinn and writing that it’s time to “rethink the culture of politics.”
“We haven’t done enough. I take responsibility for that. 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 wrote in the letter to Democratic caucus members, and state and political staffers.
“In order to change this culture and ensure quality in the workplace, we must provide a positive work environment free from any type of harassment, including sexual harassment and bullying. I recognize this at [sic] starts at the top, which means it starts with me and each of you,” Madigan wrote.
“I understand the ‘knock it off’ mentality is not enough, and we must, and will, do better moving forward,” Madigan wrote. “I commit to do more, and we must, and will, do better moving forward.”
Just four months later, Madigan ousted Mapes — the speaker’s chief of staff, the clerk of the Illinois House of Representatives and the executive director of the Democratic Party of Illinois — hours after a longtime speaker’s office employee, Sherri Garrett, went public with what she called “harassment” and “bullying” allegations.
Shea did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday evening. But in a statement, Susan Hollender of Michael Best told the Sun-Times, “There have been no accusations or complaints brought forth to us of any inappropriate or unsolicited behavior while employed with Michael Best Strategies.”