State House Speaker Mike Madigan on Tuesday delivered some strong words to Democratic House members, warning them that if he hears of any sexual harassment complaints against them “I will personally get involved to put an end to it.”
But the woman who put the powerful Southwest Side Democrat under the microscope with allegations that she was sexually harassed by a member his political organization was not impressed, saying Madigan sounds more worried about his own political neck than the safety of women.
“Speaker Madigan now says he is committed to getting ‘personally involved’ in preventing sexual harassment,” political consultant Alaina Hampton said in response. “That may prove to be a step forward — but today, it rings hollow. The Speaker had three months to get ‘personally involved’ in my case, but took no action until he knew the story was about to come out.”
The latest chapter in Madigan’s ongoing political crisis came after Madigan issued yet another statement on the problem, this time warning elected House Democrats that staffers consider them bosses — creating a “dynamic” that is “ripe for potential harassment.”
“I expect each of you to treat staff with respect and keep your relationships strictly professional,” Madigan said in his statement. “If I become aware of any complaints against a member by staff, or another member, I will personally get involved to put an end to it.”
The “crystal clear” warning from Madigan came in the fifth written statement he’s issued since his office was rocked with a sexual harassment scandal last month. The normally tight-lipped Madigan has also held two news conferences alongside his attorney to address the problem.
“He’s had two meetings with women, staff and lobbyists. One in Chicago and one in Springfield and he came with a sense and thought that it would be prudent to express that to the caucus,” Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said of Tuesday’s statement.
Madigan’s message to members — which he also released to the media — came about a week after he released a list of nine misconduct complaints that he said demonstrated his office had been there for potential harassment victims and has handled cases “according to protocol.”
And it came after he met with directors of four units of his office — the clerk’s office, issues, research and technical review divisions. Those directors are now speaking with staff on a weekly basis about whether there are any staffing issues, according to a source with close knowledge of the speaker’s office.
It also comes after Madigan met with some House Democratic women in the two private meetings. The group has been talking to lobbyists and staff members to try to both tackle sexual harassment in politics, and empower women to seek higher positions.
As for any pending legislation, Brown said the speaker is “waiting to see what kind of ideas” come from both a group headed by Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, and State Rep. Sara Wojcicki Jimenez, R-Leland Grove – and the group of women Democratic members who have been meeting.
The Democratic women’s group is also planning meetings coordinated by women in black and Latino caucuses to hear about their experiences, according to a Democratic House member.
Madigan said he issued Tuesday’s statement to the Democratic caucus because he “felt it necessary to address some of the concerns” raised in the meetings he’s attended.
“A handout you received during last week’s caucus detailed complaints brought to the chief of staff, directors, supervisors and the ethics officer over the last five years, including sexual harassment complaints made by staff against members,” Madigan said.
“I want to be crystal clear — it is inappropriate for members to make sexual comments or sexual advances to, or engage in sexual relationships with, staff, whether that person is employed directly by you, the Office of the Speaker, or another caucus. This applies to both male and female legislators.
“It is clear from my discussions that staff view you as their superiors or supervisors, and with that you are in positions of power over them. This dynamic is ripe for potential harassment.”
In her response emailed to the Chicago Sun-Times hours later, Hampton said that women will be watching Madigan closely.
“Perhaps my telling my own story publicly, combined with the [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s] notification of my right to sue last week, has caused the Speaker to have a revelation about his ethical and moral obligation to those who have been harassed and even assaulted in his own organization,” Hampton said. “More likely, he’s being driven to action by the threat of losing his grip on power — not by any personal concern for the well being of the women in the House Democratic Caucus or the Democratic Party of Illinois.
“I, and countless other victims and survivors, will be watching the Speaker’s next moves closely. We are hopeful that he will back up his words with meaningful and swift action.”
A growing chorus of Democrats has either called for an independent investigation of Madigan’s organization’s handling of sexual misconduct cases or for Madigan to step down as speaker or state Democratic Party chairman.
Last week, Madigan made it clear he has no plans to go anywhere.
“I’m not resigning. I’m moving forward,” he said at a Springfield press conference.
At that same news conference, Madigan released the nine staff complaints received from within the speaker’s 250-employee office since 2013 “concerning discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, or retaliation,” the document says.
One complaint that involved a female staffer who “was uncomfortable with unwanted advances and inappropriate comments from a lobbyist” led to the lobbyist being fired by his employer. Another complaint from a female staffer who claimed she faced discrimination over a medical condition was handled and dismissed by the state Department of Human Rights.
Most of the nine cases described by Madigan’s office were resolved when ethics officers began to “monitor” or “intervene” following a complaint.
Sexual harassment issues in state politics came to the surface once again last month when Hampton, now a political consultant, spoke out about unwanted advances from Madigan political aide Kevin Quinn, the brother of Ald. Marty Quinn (13th), a member of Madigan’s political organization. Since then another Madigan aide, lobbyist Shaw Decremer, was fired over allegations of “inappropriate behavior” toward a candidate and staff during the 2016 election.