Speaker heard, but not seen? Staffers praise Mike Madigan — even though many had no contact with him

At the height of #MeToo allegations, Madigan attended four “listening sessions” with lobbyists and current and former female workers, hosted by members of the House Democratic Women’s Caucus: “For many workers, this was their first interaction with Speaker Madigan,” Hickey wrote.

SHARE Speaker heard, but not seen? Staffers praise Mike Madigan — even though many had no contact with him
House Speaker Michael Madigan

State House Speaker Michael Madigan arrives for a meeting at the Thompson Center in 2016. File photo.

Rich Hein/Chicago Sun-Times

The most powerful politician in the state is indeed behind the curtains — according to snippets from former Inspector General Maggie Hickey’s lengthy report released on Tuesday.

While the report states that many people in the Capitol “spoke highly of Speaker Madigan” and “expressed pride” in working in his office, “very few workers in the Speaker’s Office have or have had interactions with speaker Michael Madigan.”

“In fact, many workers reported that they have never interacted with Speaker Madigan directly,” Hickey wrote.

Most interactions were instead with Tim Mapes — Madigan’s longtime chief of staff, the former clerk of the Illinois House and the former executive director of the Democratic Party of Illinois — who was ousted last year amid allegations of bullying and harassment.

“Many people believed that Mr. Mapes was the only person who had direct access to Speaker Madigan,” the report said.

At the height of #MeToo allegations, Madigan attended four “listening sessions” with lobbyists and current and former female workers, hosted by members of the House Democratic Women’s Caucus: “For many workers, this was their first interaction with Speaker Madigan,” Hickey wrote.

One of Hickey’s recommendations in the report is to “strengthen leadership,” including having the speaker be more “seen.”

“We believe that this trust in the Speaker is a unique asset for the Speaker’s Office, which can be used to address its unique challenges. Workers appeared to want to be seen and valued by Speaker Madigan,” Hickey wrote. “This was evidenced by the overall positive feedback we heard regarding the Speaker’s listening sessions, which was the first time the Speaker made rounds to hear from all levels of the Speaker’s Office.”

Hickey also wrote that the speaker “must be more visible and accessible to all workers in the Speaker’s Office,” while suggesting he continue to hold listening sessions “to have a more visible and pronounced role.”

The report states of those interviewed — more than 100 people, including current and former speaker staff, legislators and others involved in state politics — “most people did not believe that Speaker Madigan would retaliate against them.”

“Instead, the fear was that Speaker Madigan did not know who they were and, thus, would not know to defend them if they were punished or terminated,” the report said.

And in light of a bevy of criticisms against Mapes, Hickey also had a key recommendation for the speaker: don’t delegate power to just one person again.

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