* We covered the topic of Speaker Madigan’s sexual harassment press conference yesterday (click here if you need background), so we’re going to skip the basics and look at some other interesting items of note…
Names were not included to preserve confidentiality, which [Madigan lawyer Heather Wier Vaught] pointed to when asked whether the people complaining were satisfied with the resolution. She said identifying the dates of each would give clues to the people involved, but that the oldest was in 2013 and the latest more recently. […]
Vaught said with reporters and lawyers calling multiple Madigan staff members to ask about harassment, and rumors swirling, “The point of this document, in part, is to show you, here’s what we really heard, here’s what we really received, here’s how we handled it.”
Vaught said specific dates were left off the list to protect the confidentiality of complainants who did not want to be named or identified. She also decried reporters for calling staffers to ask if they had lodged complaints in recent weeks as Madigan’s office has come under fire for its handling of sexual harassment allegations.
“That has led to a lot of concern, and very, frankly, frightened people who may have things in their lives… that they don’t want to discuss publicly,” Vaught said. […]
Madigan insisted there is no negative culture in any of his operations.
“There’s no culture with me, and if you read through how these [complaints] were processed, you can see that at the leadership level, we don’t tolerate inappropriate behavior,” he said. “We just don’t tolerate it.”
Madigan said the list, the product of an internal investigation by his office, was released in response to “a lot of questions from a variety of people, what kind of complaints come into our office about unwanted, unwarranted activities.”
He said his office prepared the list as an “educational document.”
The list contains nine entries that offer vague descriptions of staff complaints made about discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment or retaliation. Madigan said they were complaints that were brought to the attention of his chief of staff or any director, supervisor or ethics officer. […]
Senate President John Cullerton’s office released a statement saying “our personnel policies spell out that any complaints are to be treated in as confidential a manner as possible in order to protect the privacy and rights of the victim. Our priority is a professional work environment in which anyone who feels victimized can come forward with confidence knowing that their rights and privacy will be protected.”
* Public Radio…
Though state Democratic Party members have pressured the Speaker to stand down in recent weeks, Madigan says he’s staying the course.
“I’m not resigning, I’m moving forward. I’m, uh, working with this particular issue, and we’re gonna work our way through it. And we’re gonna provide good strong leadership, as I have for several years.” Madigan says.
Before speaking to reporters, Madigan distributed the memo during a heated closed-door meeting with House Democrats. Lawmakers peppered Madigan with questions after two of his top campaign aides were dismissed in recent weeks following allegations of sexual harassment and bullying.
“You’ve got a bunch of elected officials who were saying, ‘What’s going on? What’s going on? What’s going on?’ ” Democratic Rep. Robert Martwick of Chicago said afterward. […]
Rep. Kelly Cassidy, a Chicago Democrat who has requested an outside investigation into complaints about Madigan’s statehouse and political organization, called the speaker’s Tuesday disclosure a “good start.” But she said more needs to be done to ensure people feel safe enough to come forward. Cassidy noted that the Capitol is not a traditional work environment, and it’s often unclear how to report allegations and who would be responsible for looking into them.
“I just think back on my experience when I was first down here, it didn’t occur to me that there was anyone I could turn to,” Cassidy said. “So for those nine on that sheet, that is no doubt just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more that doesn’t get reported.”
* Democratic attorney general candidate Sharon Fairley…
The memo of complaints about misconduct House Speaker Mike Madigan made public Tuesday should be evaluated for what it didn’t say rather than what it did. It didn’t list complaints by a member about another member. It didn’t list complaints by a member about a lobbyist. It didn’t list complaints by a lobbyist about a member. It didn’t list complaints by staff about a member regarding ill treatment or derogatory comments. It didn’t list complaints about another caucus leader, member or staff. Lastly, it didn’t list unresolved complaints.
Speaker Madigan would have the people of Illinois believe the nine complaints that he disclosed have been all tied up in a nice, neat bow. What the Democratic Party leaders don’t seem to comprehend is these complaints and the way they were handled are indicative of a profound lack of interest in accountability.
If these complaints took place over the last five years, they should’ve been referred to the Legislative Inspector General office for an independent investigation. What is the point of having a Legislative Inspector General to investigate allegations of misconduct if lawmakers are simply going to take complaints and then sweep them under the rug? If the Speaker wants to show Illinoisans “new and unprecedented action,” then he should release all complaints—including those against other legislators. Voters need to know what else is out there. There should be full disclosure and full referral to the inspector general for independent investigation.
If these complaints took place during the three-year absence of the LIG, then this makes clear Madigan was aware of the need for this position to be filled and did nothing. The veteran legislator needs to step down as speaker and the General Assembly needs to step up to select someone to fill the LIG’s position permanently. These disclosures also illustrate the need for fundamental changes to the statute governing the Ethics Commission and the LIG. In particular, the Speakers disclosure clearly sets out the case for including a duty to report misconduct to the LIG for independent investigation.
These recent revelations of sexual harassment and sexual assault give credence to Springfield being a frat house. It’s the lack of transparency and tepid response that allows improper behavior to go unchecked.
Contrary to those who believe asking Madigan to resign would be like firing a general in the midst of an important battle, in my view, the only battle the Speaker seems to be waging is the one to keep challengers to his slate of candidates from prevailing in the Democratic primary. There’s precedent, however, for taking a general off the battlefield. In an historical article I recently read it says, “Sometimes during the emergencies of war even senior officers are found to be lacking in brains, skills, or character necessary to win the war.” So, I say let Madigan be the Illinois version of George S. Patton, shall we.