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Basham announces first steps in new role as chief

Tuesday, Jun 12, 2018

* An e-mail sent to House Democrats today by Jessica Basham, Speaker Madigan’s new chief of staff…

Subject: Announcement: New hirings and other coming changes re: personnel policies and practices

Dear Members:

I’ve begun a series of conversations with members of our caucus and with staff to discuss our efforts to change the culture in the Capitol, and the role we all play in this process. I have already spoken with many of you, and the rest of you can expect my call soon. I appreciate the feedback I’ve already received, and I look forward to continuing these conversations going forward to solicit and consider new ideas.

Based on these conversations, the Speaker and I are immediately beginning a search to hire a human resources director and an equal employment opportunity/affirmative action officer to (i) promote a fair, equitable, and unbiased work environment for the 200 employees of the Speaker’s office, (ii) advise supervisors, and (iii) oversee investigations related to discrimination and harassment.

In addition to these new positions, we are considering numerous additional steps to change the culture in the Capitol, including:

    • Conducting performance reviews on all current directors and supervisors, which will include input from staff.
    • Requiring all directors and supervisors, including the chief of staff, to participate in new management training programs this summer.
    • Meeting with staff members within the Speaker’s office to solicit suggestions for changes to personnel policies and manuals. These policies and manuals will subsequently be updated, based on the feedback received.
    • Creating a confidential process for employees to anonymously register complaints or make suggestions.
    • Researching the availability of additional harassment prevention training which all staff would undergo on a continuing basis.
    • Reviewing and revamping the organizational structure of the House Democratic Staff and Speaker’s office, in order to incorporate suggestions from staff and members and bring transparency to the roles and functions of staff.

I hope you will make your thoughts part of this conversation. I’m seeking your input on new steps we can take, better policies we can enact, and any other ways we can create a fairer, equitable environment for all. Please call or email me whenever you have thoughts you’d like to share.

As I’ve already told many of you, I’m looking for your suggestions and guidance as I acclimate to my new role. I believe our caucus is stronger because we are having this discussion, and I thank you in advance for sharing your ideas.


Conducting performance reviews on all current directors and supervisors will help her weed some folks out.

* The lack of a a human resources office was one of the chief complaints by Sherri Garrett

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.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Excessively Rabid - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 10:53 am:

    You can tell I’m an outsider because of my reaction to “200 employees of the Speaker’s office.” Jaw drop.

  2. - A guy - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 10:56 am:

    This lady is turning around a battleship in a bathtub. I wish her luck. These are good steps. She’s going to have to make some positive yardage every day. Meeting the objectives is a very long term goal. So, every day demonstrating progress is going to be important. Like I said, I wish her well.

  3. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 10:58 am:

    === Jaw drop===

    Meh. 67 members, plus the clerk’s office, committees. It adds up.

  4. - Colin O'Scopy - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 10:59 am:

    =“200 employees of the Speaker’s office.”=

    The Speaker’s operation takes in the entirety of the Clerk’s Office, the support staff (legislative assistants), Doorkeeper, etc. 200 may seem excessive but in light of the various functions, it’s not that unreasonable.

  5. - Lester Holt’s Mustache - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 11:00 am:

    ==Conducting performance reviews on all current directors and supervisors will help her weed some folks out.==

    Not necessarily, only if Madigan will back whatever she wants to do. Many of these people have friends with influence. Inevitably she’ll try to weed someone out and will immediately get angry calls from one or more members of his caucus (or donors, or senators, etc etc) on why that person cannot be let go. Will MJM back Jessica when this happens, or relent to the pressure? Maybe things will work differently now, but it’s happened before.

  6. - NIU Grad - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 11:02 am:

    I follow state gov and my jaw dropped at that 200 number…How have they been able to get by without an HR staff? State agencies/businesses/etc with less than that usually have a full HR team…

  7. - walker - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 11:03 am:

    Out of the Dark Ages.

  8. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 11:05 am:

    200 employees include many “civilians” like Garrett who aren’t partisan and have important, sometimes technical roles to play. I understand Basham will oversee these civilian employees plus the House Majority staff. I am curious though, does Basham have oversight of Minority staff? If not, can anybody tell me who here counterpart is on the HGOP side, and roughly how many employees report to that person?

  9. - Texas Red - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 11:07 am:

    key words…”the Speaker and I are immediately beginning a search to hire..” read that as nothing will change.

  10. - Gin and Politics - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 11:07 am:

    These steps are a solid move. It would be nice to see the other caucuses follow this lead.

  11. - Not from Illinois - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 11:10 am:

    So all of the suggested changes are things you would have expected we’re currently being done, and done a long time ago, things that were adopted even by private businesses in the early 1980’s (performance reviews, an HR director, updating policies). Let’s see the actual policy manuals. Do they even exist? When we’re they updated?

    Of course, this all ignores and obscufates the real issue, which is having a transparent legislative inspector process, where the complaint, evidence, response, and process is public information, you know, like in a Democracy. Kim Jong Un (and sadly Donald Trump) would be proud of the current process.

  12. - Cheryl44 - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 11:25 am:

    HR departments exist to make sure the organization isn’t sued. They don’t help the staff at all.

  13. - Anon - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 11:29 am:

    Pretty basic stuff here…most marginal organizations already have it.

  14. - Excessively Rabid - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 11:31 am:

    ==it adds up==

    Thanks for clarifying what’s included.

  15. - Just Me - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 11:36 am:

    How does an organization as large as the House Democrats not have an HR officer? Clearly worrying about staff needs was never of any interest to the Speaker.

  16. - ILPundit - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 11:40 am:

    HR and Affirmative Action roles should have civil service protections or they will be functionally meaningless in this environment.

  17. - JS Mill - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 11:46 am:

    =read that as nothing will change.=

    Things have already changed, Mapes is gone for one.

  18. - Soapbox Derby - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 12:09 pm:

    Change the “culture in the Capitol”?

    So far, all of the allegations have been against members from only one side of the aisle.

  19. - NoGifts - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 12:18 pm:

    Change the culture? It seems like regular good manners would have gone a long way to avoid most of this. comportment. demeanor. kindness. the subjects you don’t bring up in public. language you don’t use at work. loyalty to your spouse. am I the only one who learned these things?

  20. - Louis G. Atsaves - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 12:26 pm:

    Sounds promising so far.

  21. - PJ - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 12:28 pm:

    ==So far, all of the allegations have been against members from only one side of the aisle.==

    If you think this is a partisan problem, I’d first laugh at you for being that dense and then point out all the ways in which it’s not.

    ==regular good manners would have gone a long way==

    Yeah, back in the good old days when folks were raised right, there was definitely no sexual harassment in work environments. We just need to say please and thank you more.

  22. - Pundent - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 12:37 pm:

    ===Conducting performance reviews on all current directors and supervisors will help her weed some folks out.==

    You have a 200 person organization and you haven’t been conducting performance reviews on directors and supervisors?

    I know that there are significant differences between government and private enterprise. But managing people is managing people.

  23. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 12:39 pm:

    100% improvement. Went from zero to one. Other entities are and have been at 10.

  24. - NoGifts - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 12:41 pm:

    PJ- who said back in the day all people had good manners? Not me. Please and thank you isn’t the definition of good manners. Good manners means not hurting people and allows us to live together civilly.

  25. - Anon - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 12:42 pm:

    @47th, think it’s How Woodard

  26. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 12:42 pm:

    Civilization began with with “please and “thank you”. Old Folk Saying

  27. - Anon - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 12:43 pm:

    Damn autocorrect, Joe

  28. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 12:48 pm:

    ===think it’s How Woodard===

    Thanks. Any idea how many people are employed (outside of legislators)?

  29. - CC Alum - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 12:53 pm:

    47th - I’m pretty sure it’s actually Andrew Freiheit

  30. - Big Red - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 12:58 pm:

    Hiring an HR Director, bringing on an EEO officer, performance reviews, management training programs, employment policy and manual….huh? This is 101 basic employer/employee relations. And they are just NOW getting around to this? I assume this may be true with the other staff caucuses too? And these caucus staffs draft language covering state employment laws and practices. Can anyone else see what’s wrong with this picture?

  31. - JP Altgeld - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 1:09 pm:

    The Speaker should not oversee the ministerial staff. Policy and committee staff should be allotted one per representative and not kept in a pool to be used by party.

  32. - Joe Bidenopolous - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 1:24 pm:

    ===Policy and committee staff should be allotted one per representative===

    This would result in a significant increase in staff members

  33. - Leave a Light on George - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 1:32 pm:

    “You have a 200 person organization and you haven’t been conducting performance reviews on directors and supervisors?

    I know that there are significant differences between government and private enterprise. But managing people is managing people.”

    This lack of orgainization to the organization wasn’t tolerated in agencies. The legislature saw to it. But of course they exempt themseleves from any kind of standard managment practices that demand accountability, unless of course they are politically expediant.

  34. - Smitty Irving - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 1:32 pm:

    Having worked in / around legislative bodies in 3 states, there’s at least 2 reasons entities such as “The Office of the Speaker” don’t have a formal HR function. First is cost - when Newt was making his run to turn Congress on a platform, in part, of making Congress obey the laws they passed, House Administration Committee Frank Annunzio objected it would cost too much. Second is jurisdiction - while HR could have helped Ms. Garrett in the case of Tim Mapes, what if the comments had come from Ken Dunkin? What authority would HR have over him? This is a difficult issue, wish them the best dealing with it.

  35. - jim - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 1:46 pm:

    looks like a new night of the long knives has just begun.

  36. - SaulGoodman - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 1:54 pm:

    **what if the comments had come from Ken Dunkin? What authority would HR have over him? **

    How is that any different than, say, a bank that has a client harass a teller?

  37. - Juice - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 2:06 pm:

    The bank can refuse to do business with a client who is harassing a teller.

    But reversing the will of the people by removing someone who was democratically elected for harassing employees is a different matter. Expulsion is an option, but its a power that should not be taken lightly.

  38. - NoGifts - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 2:06 pm:

    Anonymous 12:42 :) so true.

  39. - Lost in Chicago - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 2:10 pm:

    Having an HR Director would have made a difference? Awww, that’s cute. Their sole purpose would have been to protect Madigan and the Speaker’s Office, not Garrett.

  40. - Smitty Irving - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 2:20 pm:

    Juice -
    Thanks, spot on.

  41. - SW - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 2:45 pm:

    This whole situation reminds me of a scene in a movie where the lawyer. wife, sone or trusted advisor comes to the big bad powerful man and says: “It is really serious this time. You have to do this or you may lose everything.” I don’t dispute the notion the culture has to change at the Capital. But don’t believe that all these programs and actions change a thing. The ultimate goal is to remain in power. Smart men realize you have to change with the times and work within the evolving rules. I worked for a Fortune 100 company. This stuff took place and was implemented 20 years ago. It is old hat to private industry and most of government. Madigan will adapt. In the long run it does not change the ultimate pursuit of power. Look at California — they have more diversity and political correctness than any place on earth. Yet, the Democrats manage to continue their hold on power.

  42. - One hand //ing - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 5:08 pm:

    ===all of the allegations have been against members from only one side of the aisle.===

    If you really believe only one side has a problem, you are part of the problem.

  43. - Boomdone - Tuesday, Jun 12, 18 @ 5:50 pm:

    The Conspirators don’t care about the other side of the aisle. It doesn’t help the conspiracy.

  44. - BothSidesofHisMouth - Wednesday, Jun 13, 18 @ 8:33 am:

    Smitty and Juice - Yep. Clean up needs to be done within the caucus staffs, sure..But in my experience the main issue is members (”legislators” for those who work outside the dome) harassing staff and lobbyists… and the members are not “employees” who can be let go. They are elected officials. It’s different than a business.

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