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Madigan mops up after Mapes mess — speaker assures staffers no pressure to do politics

It’s another clean-up effort for Madigan after a series of negative headlines from a string of workplace culture and harassment issues in his government and political organizations.

House Speaker Mike Madigan
Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan talks with reporters in Springfield in 2015. File Photo.
Sun-Times Media

Weeks after a former inspector general blamed ousted Mike Madigan chief of staff Tim Mapes for ruling through a culture of fear and intimidation, the powerful speaker has told his staff and Democratic primary candidates “no person should be pressured” into volunteering for a campaign.

It’s another clean-up effort for Madigan after a series of negative headlines from a string of workplace culture and harassment issues in his government and political organizations.

“I am writing to remind you that no person should be pressured into or made to feel as if they are required to engage in political activities or that their public employment may be contingent upon assisting a candidate or political committee,” Madigan wrote Thursday in an email to Democratic primary candidates.

The message was also echoed in a letter sent to the speaker’s staff last week, Madigan wrote.

It served as a reminder that “no one is required to perform campaign related activities, and staff should not feel pressure if they choose not to assist a political campaign or committee.”

Madigan, too, notes that those who take time off to volunteer “should do so only if it is their personal choice.”

The speaker and head of the Democratic party also notes “changes” have been made to his political committees since the last election, including an update of policies, the hiring of an outside counsel to investigate complaints, as well as a training on workplace harassment.

The letter comes weeks after former inspector general Maggie Hickey issued a scathing report about workplace culture in the speaker’s office with a large focus on Mapes, who also served as the executive director of the state Democratic party and clerk of the House.

Timothy Mapes,
Timothy Mapes, then chief of staff for Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, listens to lawmakers debate at the Capitol in Springfield in 2011. File Photo.
AP Photo/Seth Perlman

Most of those interviewed, Hickey wrote, “agreed that Mr. Mapes commonly threatened people’s jobs or reminded them that they were dispensable.”

“People believed that Mr. Mapes attempted to motivate workers through fear and that a few other supervisors throughout the years emulated this practice,” Hickey writes. “Some people also raised the additional concern that, given Mr. Mapes’ political ties, he could make or break their careers outside of the Speaker’s Office as well.”

Madigan ousted Mapes in June 2018, just after Sherri Garrett, a longtime member of the speaker’s staff went public with allegations of “harassment” and “bullying” from Mapes.

Hickey also wrote that the speaker’s staff felt “obligated to volunteer for political organizations ... or else suffer retaliation.”

“Several witnesses expressed concern that Mr. Mapes could affect their employment status and opportunities quickly and unilaterally. ... Many workers in the Speaker’s Staff, for example, believed that they were obligated to volunteer for political organizations, such as DPI [the Democratic Party of Illinois], or else suffer retaliation by not having their contracts re- newed, by not getting good assignments, or by having their prospects diminished,” the report said. “Many Clerk’s Office workers, for example, believed that Mr. Mapes would terminate their employment without notice or cause.”

For his part, Mapes argued that “recent criticisms made against me do not truly appreciate the size of the responsibility of my position.”

“I had many responsibilities that I took on in order to make the Speaker’s Office more efficient and effective. If my demeanor or approach to my job did not instill trust and a healthy work environment, I apologize,” Mapes said in a statement after the report’s release. “I truly did my best, no matter the shortcomings that are now ascribed to me, and I always acted in good faith and for the benefit of the people of the State of Illinois.”