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Madigan accused of sweeping harassment cases under the rug

Wednesday, Feb 28, 2018

* 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.”

* Sun-Times

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.”

* SJ-R

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.

* Tribune

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.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

18 Comments
  1. - Anon0091 - Wednesday, Feb 28, 18 @ 10:20 am:

    Well said by Sharon Fairley until that last bit about Patton. She may want to brush up on her history. Patton was taken off the battlefield for slapping a soldier but brought in when it mattered most. Don’t think that’s what she meant to suggest.


  2. - Anon0091 - Wednesday, Feb 28, 18 @ 10:21 am:

    Oh, and one more thing. This. Is. Not. Going. Away.

    Fairley is absolutely right that he’s trying to tie this up in a neat little bow and hope people think he has it under control. He doesn’t. So so so much still to come out.


  3. - Mann Horace - Wednesday, Feb 28, 18 @ 10:24 am:

    Good stuff from Sharon Fairley.


  4. - Practical Politics - Wednesday, Feb 28, 18 @ 10:24 am:

    Drip, drip, drip, drip, drip… Time for a plumber to clean up this mess. This issue is not going away and it is not going to be easily contained.


  5. - One hand //ing - Wednesday, Feb 28, 18 @ 10:24 am:

    A little clarity in the headline would be good. He wasn’t accused by the Sun Times, the Journal Register, Public Radio, the Tribune, or even by the legislators quoted in those articles. He was accused by a candidate for office, and for that matter a candidate without a direct connection or knowledge of these incidents. Wouldn’t a headline indicating its Fairley who is making accusations be clearer?


  6. - Perrid - Wednesday, Feb 28, 18 @ 10:26 am:

    Members are not employees, he can’t fire or really discipline them, certainly not in his Chairman role, so it’s not that big of a smoking gun that he left out complaints about members. Leaves questions unanswered, and I’m sure he’s happy to be able to claim some kind of lack of authority, but it’s not unreasonable to only report on the people who are/should be under his office’s responsibility.


  7. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Feb 28, 18 @ 10:28 am:

    ===A little clarity in the headline would be good===

    Or you could just get your own blog. lol


  8. - Fair and Balanced - Wednesday, Feb 28, 18 @ 10:31 am:

    The Trib article also quoted Drury, who was the first to call for Madigan’s resignation:

    “This is like a pressure cooker. They are just trying to keep the lid on it,” said Drury, who has called on Madigan to resign as speaker. “Eventually it’s going to come off, and it’s not going to be good for the Democratic Party, it’s not going to be good for the public, and in the end, it’s not going to be good for Speaker Madigan.”


  9. - Blue dog dem - Wednesday, Feb 28, 18 @ 10:32 am:

    MJM. From one old geazer to another. Hang it up.


  10. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Feb 28, 18 @ 10:33 am:

    –Oh, and one more thing. This. Is. Not. Going. Away.–

    No, it’s not, for anyone.

    Will the other legislative leaders and the constitutional officers be compelled to give an accounting as to complaints received? I would think so.

    Same for congresscritters, mayors, county board execs, sheriffs…..

    Once the question is asked, you have to give an answer.


  11. - Blue dog dem - Wednesday, Feb 28, 18 @ 10:37 am:

    Anyone know the over/,under on voter turnout in the primary? Could it drop into the teens?


  12. - Anon0091 - Wednesday, Feb 28, 18 @ 10:45 am:

    “He wasn’t accused by…”

    Sure he has been. That’s effectively what Alaina Hampton said and it’s what others have said. The question out there is whether it’s true and whether he has indeed swept it under the rug.


  13. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Feb 28, 18 @ 10:55 am:

    Fairley thinks these should have been referred to the Legislative Inspector General? She thinks they should’ve been gathering dust? Instead, they were investigated.

    Nothing’s perfect, but which result is better?


  14. - ANALYST - Wednesday, Feb 28, 18 @ 11:27 am:

    It seems that Fairley would impose a strict liability standard in this matter, which could extend Speaker/Chairman Madigan’s reach to every Democrat running for office, maybe even every registered lobbyist.


  15. - Stand Tall - Wednesday, Feb 28, 18 @ 11:33 am:

    - Anonymous - Wednesday, Feb 28, 18 @ 10:55 am: - She is saying the LIG position should have never been left unfilled and that it is the proper place for all this to be handled and she it correct. Michael Madigan and his minions shouldn’t be heading the investigation, he should be the one investigated.


  16. - walker - Wednesday, Feb 28, 18 @ 11:50 am:

    Fairley is correct that many things must be done at many levels to improve this culture. However, she way overstates how much scope should be ascribed to Madigan, and muddies the waters with vague definitions of “harassment, ill treatment, or derogatory comments.”

    A little focus, and precision would be helpful.

    Let’s start with defined sexual harassment claims, clear and safe reporting opportunities, and specific management responsibilities. Then expand to wider issues.


  17. - Gorilla - Wednesday, Feb 28, 18 @ 12:11 pm:

    Madigan is the employer for staff. He has a responsibility to review complaints and take action against staff. Sending thee to the Inspector General is a cop out.


  18. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Feb 28, 18 @ 3:08 pm:

    Fair and balanced, drury and rauner must both have the same failing psychiatrist whom can’t seem to alleviate their self inflicted Madigan nightmares


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