Capitol - Your Illinois News Radar » On eve of campaign kick-off, Preckwinkle admits she fired her chief of staff for “inappropriate behavior”
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On eve of campaign kick-off, Preckwinkle admits she fired her chief of staff for “inappropriate behavior”

Wednesday, Sep 19, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Shia Kapos this morning

John Keller, the chief of staff to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, has abruptly resigned “for personal reasons,” according to a memo sent out late by Preckwinkle. The short, foreboding announcement offered no praise or congratulatory farewell to Keller, who had been in the powerful supervisory position since January 2017. Keller oversaw the work of all the offices under Preckwinkle. He also served as a liaison of sorts with elected city, county and state officials. When he was hired, Preckwinkle lavished praise, saying, “I have known John for more than a decade and his breadth of experience equips him well for the chief of staff role. He has a demonstrated ability to work well across the county’s vast landscape of responsibilities.” Deputy Chief of Staff Lanetta Haynes Turner replaces Keller in the interim. His departure comes as Preckwinkle makes plans to announce she’ll run for mayor. That’s supposed to take place Thursday in Hyde Park.

Shia was right to be suspicious. I mean, Preckwinkle’s chief of staff quietly resigns the week she will announce for mayor and he’s not moving over to the campaign, even though he’s been one of Preckwinkle’s go-to campaign guys for years? Odd, to say the least. Stuff like that just doesn’t happen. The rumor mill was blazing hot all day.

* And now we get the explanation via press release…

As President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners and as a woman, it is important to me to foster a workplace that is respectful, where all people are treated with dignity. I have always had zero tolerance for inappropriate and disrespectful behavior. On Friday, I became aware of an allegation that my Chief of Staff, John Keller, had engaged in inappropriate behavior on his personal time. The allegation was corroborated. I confronted Mr. Keller; he did not deny the allegation. Yesterday, I demanded and received his immediate resignation.

She shoulda just come clean.

…Adding… I probably don’t have to say this, but anyone who tries to out the victim in comments will be banished for life. Don’t try.

…Adding… Press release…

Toni Preckwinkle to Make Announcement Regarding Mayoral Race

WHAT: Toni Preckwinkle will be holding a press conference to announce her decision regarding the mayoral race.

WHEN: Thursday, September 20 at 3:00 pm

WHERE: Chicago Lake Shore Hotel at 4900 South Lake Shore Drive

…Adding… Sneed

“Why did Preckwinkle wait this long to take action?” asked a top Dem political source.

Sneed is told the allegation stemmed from Keller’s time working for the campaign of Marie Newman, who lost a bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., in the March Democratic primary.

The rumors of Keller’s behavior, which involved a woman working on Newman’s campaign, had been floating since then, according to another Dem source.


  1. - Driving a car - Wednesday, Sep 19, 18 @ 5:22 pm:

    Great start!

  2. - LM - Wednesday, Sep 19, 18 @ 5:30 pm:

    Always odd to me how Preckwinkle landed serious talent like Kim Foxx, Robin Kelly and Kurt Summers but also has more than her fair share of hacks.

  3. - Someone you should know - Wednesday, Sep 19, 18 @ 5:58 pm:

    Maybe Cat Stevens was right, the first cut is the deepest

  4. - The Most Anonymous - Wednesday, Sep 19, 18 @ 6:24 pm:

    So this is how inappropriate behavior is handled when a woman is in charge. Refreshing.

  5. - Roman - Wednesday, Sep 19, 18 @ 6:26 pm:

    Preckwinkle churns through staff at a pretty rapid pace. Keller was her 6th or 7th chief of staff in less than 8 years. But, obviously, this about more than the tough working environment in the county board president’s office.

  6. - Bully pulpit - Wednesday, Sep 19, 18 @ 6:37 pm:

    The only thing Preckwinkle has done I approve of. She hired him though.

  7. - TNR - Wednesday, Sep 19, 18 @ 7:07 pm:

    Smart for her to take quick and decisive action on this. She isn’t exactly known for her sentimentality or sense of loyalty, as @Roman indicates above. Daley went through chiefs of staff at a similar rate.

    This will step on her roll out message tomorrow, but she goes into the mayoral race as the clear front runner. Let’s see if anyone has the cash for a sustained “Pop Tax Toni” line of attack — that will hurt more than anything Keller did.

  8. - Ronny - Wednesday, Sep 19, 18 @ 8:20 pm:

    This was her A-#1 guy, groomed in her organization since he was in college and allowed free rein to come and go and come back earning $190,000 a year. Depending on a number of to be determined circumstances this is a venal or mortal sin but the reporters are going to bring the noise tomorrow and I don’t see how there is a good outcome except for maybe it ends soon. Not likely. Thursday will be day three of this story. The handling of this has been a full on disaster much like her never ending rollout. None of this bodes well for her management of a city prone to scandal.

  9. - Roman - Wednesday, Sep 19, 18 @ 8:27 pm:

    Sneed is up with some new details…interesting political intrigue:

  10. - Southside Markie - Wednesday, Sep 19, 18 @ 8:33 pm:

    Agree with JB13. What happened? She says that she found out on Friday, 9/14, but made no public announcement for 5 days. Then, only after Shia Kapos published the story. Why the wait?

  11. - Southside Markie - Wednesday, Sep 19, 18 @ 8:35 pm:

    Looks like Sneed is beginning to connect the dots.

  12. - Roman - Wednesday, Sep 19, 18 @ 9:55 pm:

    “Sneed is told the allegation stemmed from Keller’s time working for the campaign of Marie Newman…”

    So the alleged misconduct happened more that 6 months ago, but Preckwinkle says in her statement she learned about it Friday. I suppose that’s possible, but it will raise a lot of “what did she know, and when did she know it” questions from reporters at her campaign kick off tomorrow.

  13. - @misterjayem - Thursday, Sep 20, 18 @ 7:44 am:

    So the alleged misconduct happened more that 6 months ago, but Preckwinkle says in her statement she learned about it Friday. I suppose that’s possible

    A “before you kick-off your mayoral campaign, you should know…” call certainly seems possible, perhaps even likely.

    – MrJM

  14. - Anonymous - Thursday, Sep 20, 18 @ 8:08 am:

    Toni’s hallmark snobbery is on full display with her charging ahead. She’s walking into a media buzzsaw today.

  15. - BlueDogDem - Thursday, Sep 20, 18 @ 8:48 am:

    I am old. What exactly is inappropriate behavior?

  16. - The Most Anonymous - Thursday, Sep 20, 18 @ 9:02 am:

    ===She’s walking into a media buzzsaw===

    Maybe. It’s certainly isn’t an ideal moment to launch. But with a little finesse, the right message and tone, she can come out fine. Perhaps even more appealing to women than she would’ve been otherwise. Tone is important when she answers questions about this and so is transparency/consistency. She should be getting her answers prepped re: the who/what/where/when why about how she found out.

    What I really want to know is how relieved JB and Bruce are to have Toni sucking up some oxygen today.

  17. - Powdered Whig - Thursday, Sep 20, 18 @ 9:15 am:

    === Sneed is told the allegation stemmed from Keller’s time working for the campaign of Marie Newman, who lost a bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., in the March Democratic primary.===


    First of all, why is Preckwinkle’s Chief of Staff working for Marie Newman? MJM would probably want to know about that.

    Second, well I can’t say the second except that this is another strange twist relating to that congressional campaign.

  18. - anon - Thursday, Sep 20, 18 @ 9:23 am:

    County employees, campaign workers and other interested parties have a legitimate interest in knowing what constitutes inappropriate and disrespectful behavior on personal time that rises to the level that it might cost you a job and impact your career in such a dramatic fashion. Was it campaign related or not? When did it happen? How did Preckwinkle’s COS got into a position of authority on a campaign and whether he took a leave of absence to do so may also be of interest to Cook County residents.

  19. - Quinn'er No More - Thursday, Sep 20, 18 @ 10:09 am:

    Too bad for Keller.. He seemed like a good guy, until he became COS for Toni. Like many flawed-men before him. Get a little power, lose your common sense.

    Also: How is being deployed to a campaign, “personal time?”

    Seems to me that this is the most “official” time.

  20. - A guy - Thursday, Sep 20, 18 @ 10:53 am:

    There seems to have always been a chasm between campaign staff and office staff. Maybe these lanes shouldn’t be crossed.

    At any rate, he’s gone for apparently the right reasons for him to be gone. Appears (almost) everyone is beginning to understand this message. That’s a good thing.

  21. - Shytown - Thursday, Sep 20, 18 @ 3:06 pm:

    It all stinks.

  22. - questions - Thursday, Sep 20, 18 @ 3:34 pm:

    I think Marie Newman and Eric her campaign guy needs to come clean on this

    What did she know and when and she did nothing and said nothing under her watch

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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