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Madigan defends handling of Franks investigation, Pritzker ‘deeply troubled’ by allegations

Madigan made his first public comments on the matter as the Illinois House returned to session in Springfield. Madigan said twice that he personally called the Sangamon County State’s attorney to look into what he believed was a “potential criminal event.”

Then state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Woodstock, (left) in 2012; House Speaker Mike Madigan (right) in 2016. 
Then state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Woodstock, (left) in 2012; House Speaker Mike Madigan (right) in 2016. File Photos.
Seth Perlman/AP.

Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan on Tuesday defended his office’s handling of a sexual misconduct and stalking investigation into former state Rep. Jack Franks, saying he acted to protect “the welfare and the privacy of the victim.”

Madigan made his first public comments on the matter as the Illinois House returned to session in Springfield. Some have questioned why the investigation, involving an elected official, wasn’t made public earlier. Others were alarmed that Madigan had banned Franks from the Capitol — but didn’t alert the public to that ban.

“We were proceeding under the usual rules of these matters, which is number one, to provide, to protect the welfare and the privacy of the victim,” Madigan told reporters. “And then at the appropriate time, we notified law enforcement.”

Madigan said twice that he personally called the Sangamon County State’s attorney to look into what he believed was a “potential criminal event.”

The Sun-Times last week reported that Illinois State Police on Jan. 29 executed a search warrant at Madigan’s Capitol offices as part of a sexual misconduct and stalking investigation of Franks.

The search warrant — obtained by the Sun-Times via a Freedom of Information Act request — indicates that state police justified the search because “probable cause exists for the crimes of criminal sexual abuse, criminal sexual assault, official misconduct, stalking and aggravated battery.”

Police requested personnel, human resources or other files “containing information related to allegations of wrongdoing or misconduct by former Illinois State Representative Jack D. Franks.”

The allegations — involving an employee of the speaker’s office — date back to 2016, according to Madigan’s office. When the initial complaint was received in Nov. 2018, several Madigan staffers said they witnessed Franks and the alleged victim speaking privately, a conversation that left her shaken “to the core.” That was reported to senior staff at the time.

Franks initially faced various restrictions, including a prohibition against any contact with employees in Madigan’s office. By February 2019, the speaker asked Illinois Secretary of State Capitol Police to ban Franks from entering the Capitol without an escort, the speaker’s office said.

Last week, Franks told the Sun-Times he issued a “full denial” to the speaker’s office last year.

“In April of 2019, I received correspondence from the speaker’s office, which I quickly responded to with a full denial,” Franks said. “Since then, I’ve heard nothing from the speaker’s office about the matter, and I know nothing about a search warrant. I haven’t been contacted about anyone about any matter, other than that letter nine months ago.”

Franks served in the Illinois House from 1999 until 2016, when he ran for McHenry County Board chair. In 2008, he worked closely with now-Gov. J.B. Pritzker to try to help elect Hillary Clinton. Pritzker served as co-chairman of Clinton’s nationwide grassroots organization.

The governor’s office on Monday said Pritzker “is deeply troubled by these serious allegations, and he fully supports the efforts of law enforcement to thoroughly investigate this matter.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks during a news conference in December. File Photo
Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks during a news conference in December. File Photo
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Although many legislators have been mum about the allegations, state Rep. Steve Reick, R-Woodstock, on Friday said Franks should resign as chairman of the McHenry County Board.

“Everything he does in that role going forward will be tainted by the credible allegations of abuse against an innocent victim of what by all accounts is predatory behavior. The people of McHenry County deserve representation that is not tainted by allegations of misconduct of such breathtaking proportions,” Reick said in a statement on his website. “Until these allegations are fully dealt with, he has no business holding a position of trust. He must immediately resign.”

Franks remains the chairman of the McHenry County Board. The board has its next meeting on Thursday, Feb. 13. He has not been charged with any wrongdoing.