* Press release…
Madigan staff member comes forward about harassment by Chief of Staff Tim Mapes
Long-time State House employee cites repeated incidents of bullying, harassment in Springfield
CHICAGO (June 6, 2018)–A long-time member of Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan’s Office came forward on Wednesday to detail multiple instances of bullying and harassment in the workplace by Madigan’s Chief of Staff, Tim Mapes.
Sherri Garrett, who is an Account Technician and Minutes Clerk for the Speaker’s Office, said she decided to speak out after many years of harassment and bullying.
“I have decided to come forward because we have a serious and pervasive problem in our state government, and I could no longer remain silent about my own mistreatment,” said Garrett, who resides in Springfield. “My hope is that by coming forward, I can help to create space for others to do the same.”
“I want to make sure that the workplace environment is better in the future for our daughters, and our sons,” she said. “We need to force fundamental change–not just lip service, not a quick hit solution, but real cultural transformation.”
Garrett detailed several incidents:
In Spring 2013, former State Rep. Ken Dunkin approached the House Well and said to Ms. Garrett and another woman–“I want to take both of you home and see which one will be the naughtiest.” Ms. Garrett reported the incident. Ms. Garrett later heard that when Mr. Mapes was told about the incident, his response was that it would blow over. While the incident was appropriately addressed by other members of Ms. Garrett’s team ultimately, it later became clear to Ms. Garrett that Mr. Mapes did not take appropriate action to address Rep. Dunkin’s comment, and if it had been left up to Mr. Mapes, the entire incident would have been swept under the rug.
In December 2014, Ms. Garrett was participating in a conversation with several of her colleagues in the Speaker’s Office, planning inauguration logistics. They were discussing the proper drop-off location for a judge at inauguration. In the middle of the conversation, Tim Mapes said that Ms. Garrett needed to make sure she was not showing her “pink bra” to the judge on Inauguration Day, because he “knows how us girls on the second floor like to leave little to the imagination,” Ms. Garrett said. Ms. Garrett said there was no context for this comment, which she found entirely inappropriate. “As anyone can tell you, I never dress provocatively. But even if I did, this would have been a completely inappropriate comment,” said Ms. Garrett.
In September 2015, Ms. Garrett had been approached by a young woman who had previously worked with her in the Clerk’s office. The woman was being sexually harassed by a member of the House Democratic Caucus and had come to talk to Ms. Garrett because she was afraid. Ms. Garrett spoke to Mr. Mapes about the details of the situation, told him she was concerned and asked him to talk to the Representative and tell him to stop. Mr. Mapes then said to Ms. Garrett: “Are you reporting the situation because you are upset the Representative isn’t paying attention to you?” Ms. Garrett was astounded at the comment, and continued to advocate for the young women’s safety. Another colleague was present, and that person was also taken aback by the comment.
A fourth incident took place just a few weeks ago. Ms. Garrett was in the House Well preparing for the start of session. Mr. Mapes approached her and another colleague and started a conversation about another individual. He discussed how the individual “wouldn’t do something because the person was married.” Without full context, Ms. Garrett did not understand what Mr. Mapes was saying. He then looked at Ms. Garrett and said “We know that doesn’t matter around here, does it, Sherri?” Ms. Garrett said something to the effect of, “Yes, this place does have a reputation.” Mr. Mapes then said, “Now, I am not implying that you are running around on Jim [Ms. Garrett’s husband].” Ms. Garrett was again stunned, confused and uncomfortable. Ms. Garrett’s colleague, standing next to her, said something to try to defuse the conversation. Mr. Mapes said to Ms. Garrett’s colleague, “So you’re implying that Sherri is running around on Jim?” Ms. Garrett’s colleague was also stunned. He said no. Later, Ms. Garrett turned to her colleague and said, “Why did that conversation take place?” Ms. Garrett’s colleague said he found the conversation “very awkward and uncomfortable, but not unusual.” Ms. Garrett’s colleague also noted that he did not understand why Mr. Mapes continued to stare at her throughout the interaction.
In April of this year, Mr. Mapes came on the floor. Ms. Garrett heard him say to a colleague: “Are you going to sex training today?,” jokingly referring to sexual harassment training. The Chief of Staff was apparently making light of the training, even in this moment, in which this training is so critical.
On the day of the State of the State Address, many people in Springfield were wearing black in solidarity with the #TimesUp movement. Mr. Mapes wore navy blue. Ms. Garrett noted Mr. Mapes stated: “I’m wearing blue today because there’s not a woman on the House floor that would want me to tell them what to wear.” It was clear that he viewed this as a way for him to thumb his nose at the entire #TimesUp movement.
Mr. Mapes is the Chief of Staff to the Speaker of the House. He is also the Clerk of the House and the Executive Director of the Democratic Party of Illinois.
“[Mapes] has an inordinate amount of power in this state,” said Ms. Garrett. “And the Speaker’s Office, which he helms, is charged with leading the effort to reform the system to address concerns like mine. They should be held to the highest standard.”
Ms. Garrett plans to file a complaint detailing her harassment with the Legislative Inspector General following the press conference.
*** UPDATE 1 *** A few quotes from Ms. Garrett’s press conference today…
I’m loyal to him. This is very hard for me. But I’ve just suffered one disappointment after another with how things were handled. I feel it’s time to do better. I feel it’s time for him to pay attention to us.
There are all kinds of people who are behind me right now that you can’t see because they’re too afraid to come forward.
Please step up for the victims. In reality, we are Democrats. We’re supposed to protect the people who can’t protect themselves.
I would just ask him to help the victims, to believe that we really are victims.
It’s just time for this to stop. I would just challenge him to come forward and take a different path than he’s taken for the last six or seven months.
He has the power to do something for us and make it better for us.
*** UPDATE 2 *** From Ms. Garrett’s written statement at the beginning of her presser…
I have not felt that I have had a safe path to report my experiences. I’m speaking out because victims of harassment like me, men and women alike, just want to go to work, just want to do our jobs with dignity and we want to go home at the end of our day. But, instead, we have a culture of sexism, harassment and bullying that creates an incredibly difficult work environment.
I feel strongly that if we had a human resources office that represents the interests of employees and not the people in power. I wish I would’ve had someone that I could have trusted and to whom I could’ve said, ‘Hey. This happened to me. Is this supposed to happen?’
If there had been a true professional human resources team, they could have said ‘No’ and perhaps we could have nipped it in the bud right then and there.
Mr. Mapes is the chief of staff for the Speaker of the House. He is also the Clerk of the House and the executive director of the Democratic Party of Illinois. He has an inordinate amount of power in the state. And the Speaker’s office which he helms is charged with leading the effort to reform the system to address allegations like mine. They should be held to the highest standard.
Instead they behave like they’re above reproach and like the Speaker’s office is a locker room.
It is scary to come forward and speak out about his behavior. But I feel strongly that employees do not have any protection.
The legislative reforms that have been passed thus far are a good step forward, but they don’t go nearly far enough. And until we see a meaningful commitment to culture change in our state from those at the very top, I fear nothing will improve.