* Click here for background if you need it on yesterday’s memo from Speaker Madigan to his members warning them against sexually harassing or having sexual relations with staff along with Alaina Hampton’s response. Sun-Times…
“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.
[Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago] said she wasn’t sure what prompted Madigan’s latest message, saying, “he just read it to us in that measured, deliberate tone of his.”
Others said they interpreted it as a stern warning from Madigan as he tries to move ahead on the issue. Madigan repeatedly has said he has no intentions to step aside.
Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, a Chicago Democrat who serves on Madigan’s leadership team, said the comments were “a very strong statement about a level of professionalism that he expects.”
“I believe it is a step in the right direction, a clarion call, if you will,” Feigenholtz said.
Still, Feigenholtz called the issue a “work in progress.” “I believe there is a commitment to reframe things around here,” Feigenholtz said.
Meanwhile, the House’s sexual harassment task force Tuesday discussed a draft of a bill authored by House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, and the committee’s minority spokesperson Sara Wojcicki Jimenez, R-Leland Grove, to reform state ethics and human rights law with new regulations in an attempt to decrease instances of sexual harassment and allow for a better pathway to justice for victims.
The proposals include extending the period for reporting after a rights violation from 180 days to one year, allowing anonymous reporting and creating an investigator position in more government offices.
Lobbyists and legislators debated parts of the draft, including the statute of limitation clause. As written, it would cover more than just sexual harassment allegations, a concern for an already overstretched complaint system at the Illinois Department of Human Rights and the Human Rights Commission, according to Jay Shattuck, a lobbyist for the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.
“There is a tremendous backlog … that is unfortunately detrimental … to the individuals who have been discriminated against but certainly employers who are stuck in the process for as many as six, seven years before there’s a resolution of a human rights act charge,” he said. “We think we need to address the backlog as well.”