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Sexual harassment allegations against Cook County employee lead to workplace restrictions

The restricted employee works in the county’s Office of the Chief Administrative Officer. He was accused of sexually harassing one of Preckwinkle’s employees, according to a January report from Independent Inspector General Patrick Blanchard’s office.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle addresses a County Board meeting in 2015. | File Photo.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle addresses a County Board meeting in 2015. | File Photo.
Saiyna Bashir/Sun-Times

A special assistant working in Cook County government has been barred from Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s offices over allegations of sexual harassment against another employee.

The restricted employee works in the county’s Office of the Chief Administrative Officer. He was accused of sexually harassing one of Preckwinkle’s employees, according to a January report from Independent Inspector General Patrick Blanchard’s office.

The report did not name the accused assistant, but Crain’s Chicago Business identified him as Al Kindle. And two sources confirmed that to the Sun-Times.

The inspector general couldn’t sustain the allegation that Preckwinkle’s office failed to act on the complaint of sexual harassment against the employee, concluding that staffers “responded appropriately and according to the County policies, rules, and regulations as to the confirmed acts of sexual harassment by the subject Special Assistant against the victim.”

Kindle was minimally disciplined for the incident and was barred from entering Preckwinkle’s offices where the victim works, subject to certain conditions, according to the report.

In a statement Preckwinkle said she’s made it a priority to “ensure that all of our employees work in an environment that is safe and welcoming” and noted the county has done “even more work to fulfill that commitment.”

That work was brought on by sexual harassment allegations against Preckwinkle’s former chief of staff, John Keller. Preckwinkle demanded Keller’s resignation in September 2018 but admitted she knew of an “unsubstantiated rumor” months before.

As for the incident described in the inspector general’s January report, Preckwinkle said in a statement that once she learned of it, she “met with my staffer and supported her.”

“I advised the staffer to follow the reporting process and instructed my Chief of Staff to do the same. Our EEO office conducted an investigation,” the statement continues.

“A subsequent [inspector general] investigation into this incident found that my staff responded appropriately and timely to the allegation made, supported the victim, conducted a thorough investigation and that the appropriate discipline was imposed.”