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Preckwinkle refused resignation of chief of staff she later fired over sexual harassment allegations

Thursday, Nov 8, 2018

* Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has repeatedly denied that she knew about sexual harassment allegations against her chief of staff before she fired him in September on the eve of her announcement for mayor. Not true

Scott Cisek, a key political adviser, said he told Preckwinkle days after the March 20 primary election that he’d “heard some very disturbing rumors” that Keller “had been behaving badly towards women.” And he warned Preckwinkle that someday “one of these women is going to come forward.”

Keller told the Tribune that Preckwinkle then met with him to let him know there was an allegation stemming from his brief work on a Democratic congressional campaign.

Keller actually offered to resign at that meeting, but Preckwinkle rejected the offer.

* And now we may know why that blatantly false item was planted with Sneed today about Emily Miller working for potential mayoral candidate Susana Mendoza

Preckwinkle also noted that she has referred the Keller matter to the Cook County inspector general for a full investigation. Preckwinkle did so after Emily Miller, a Democratic political consultant who had brought the Keller allegations to Cisek back in March, followed up with Preckwinkle last month to tell her she was concerned about the way the matter was handled.

Miller, a friend of a Keller accuser, then documented parts of her talk with Preckwinkle in an email to Preckwinkle’s new chief of staff, a copy of which the Tribune obtained through an open records request. […]

Miller recounted for the Tribune her interactions with Preckwinkle and Cisek. She said she came away disappointed with how they handled the accusations and called it a “cop-out” that the Preckwinkle administration did not pursue the matter sooner and more aggressively.

“There was obviously another way to take care of the problem than just filing that formal written complaint,” said Miller, who indicated that she is not aligned with any mayoral candidate. “And that other way played out two days before (Preckwinkle) announced for mayor. And it could have just as easily played out … when she first became aware of the problem.”

Reporters are obviously going to have to be careful with any “leaks” coming out of Preckwinkle’s campaign from here on out if that’s how they’re gonna play.

There is a whole lot more to this Tribune story, so click here to read the rest.

…Adding… Lori Lightfoot…

“This is bigger than Toni Preckwinkle’s shielding of John Keller,” said Lightfoot. “It’s bigger than her campaign’s dishonest efforts to discredit Emily Miller or her failure to hold anyone accountable for the abandoned SUV until the media took notice. It’s about a toxic culture that starts at the top, and that puts women at risk. We need leaders who will reject this culture and instead build a transparent and accountable City Hall that serves the people, not the broken political machine.”

* Related…

* Preckwinkle’s head of security fired: The head of security for mayoral hopeful and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle was fired last week, two years after a county-owned SUV was found abandoned in a ditch in southwest suburban Lemont Township.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Lobo Y Olla - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 4:09 pm:

    Emily Miller is top, top shelf. She’s possesses an ethical compass that is unshakable.

    Did I mention she’s top shelf?

    You made this random commenter very proud.

  2. - Anonymous - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 4:11 pm:

    A well-funded opps campaign could make quite the series of ads on the Cook County Board President this winter.

  3. - Almost the weekend - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 4:20 pm:

    Yea if I’m JB I move into the mansion until the runoff is over.

  4. - Joe Bidenopolous - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 4:21 pm:

    ===Emily Miller is top, top shelf. ===

    Concur entirely on the merits. All class and fun to work with.

    ===A well-funded opps campaign could…on the Cook County Board President ===

    Target-rich environment if someone has deep-enough pockets (and the right OR firm)

  5. - lakeside - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 4:27 pm:

    Deeply concur. Miller turns up, says things that need saying in smart ways, and, seconded, on that ethical compass.

  6. - Moe Berg - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 4:29 pm:

    Reporters who get burned by sources should out them.

  7. - Just Me - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 4:37 pm:

    As far as I’m concerned this disqualifies Preckwinkle from running. The Mayor’s downfall was lying about a shooting, now we have another mayoral candidate lying about sexual harassment.

    (I’m not saying a violent death is the same as harassment, I’m just saying they’re both lying to us about what they knew and when they knew it.)

  8. - Roadrager - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 4:39 pm:

    ==Reporters who get burned by sources should out them.==

    It’s not the accuracy of the Sneedling that matters, but merely having the access to said Sneedling, so that one may continue to Sneedle.

  9. - NIU Grad - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 4:43 pm:

    This is just the beginning. Once more eyes turn on her handling of the county, there will be a treasure trove of oppo.

  10. - Ron Burgundy - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 4:51 pm:

    –Reporters who get burned by sources should out them.–

    Or in this case make them a don’t invite-em item.

  11. - Anonymous - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 4:54 pm:

    Watching Preckwinkle’s interviews on Chicago Tonight, she gives some of the most evasive answers of any politician. I’m not sure where she gets the rep as transparent and a reformer. She seems old school machine to me.

  12. - hisgirlfriday - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 5:05 pm:

    Just be glad your career survived the pop tax debacle and step away from the mayor’s race, Toni.

  13. - West Side the Best Side - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 5:18 pm:

    Just look at who her good buddy is - Joe Berrios. She’s really pulled the wool over people’s eyes who think she’s a good government reformer.

  14. - Amalia - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 5:24 pm:

    I’m seriously interested in figuring out the point where Toni went wrong. Cause now she’s all sorts of wrong. She used to be such a reformer. When did it change?

  15. - Molly Maguire - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 5:29 pm:

    Every day that goes by, it seems that Mendoza becomes a bigger threat to Preckwinkle. There is definitely more energy around Mendoza among activists–they love her. I don’t see a similar energy for the county board chair (and she has a lot more baggage)

  16. - Sonny - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 5:35 pm:

    6 weeks ago John Keller was tracking to be one of the people administrating Chicago this spring if Preckwinkle had her druthers.

  17. - Wow - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 5:51 pm:

    Cisek is a good and decent man.

  18. - Rutro - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 5:53 pm:

    Toni’s full of it, many more skeletons

  19. - Anonymous - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 6:27 pm:

    I think it’s less the ‘pro sexual harasser’ stretch and more that she’s just a lying liar.

  20. - wordslinger - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 6:28 pm:

    The abandoned SUV in the ditch FUBAR stinks pretty badly, too.

    We’ll see who files, but I wouldn’t make any bets yet on who will be the top two finishers.

  21. - Runoff - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 6:32 pm:

    Toni and Susana will start clubbing eachother over the head and Bill is going to slide right into that runoff…

  22. - Gooner - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 6:44 pm:

    Amalia is right. It seemed that a while ago, Toni was concerned about doing the right thing.

    Lately, it seems that her hiring has been pretty bad and that she’s more about self preservation.

    The other thing to note is that Scott comes off in the article as seeming pretty negative about Toni. His remarks make her look terrible. He’s been with her forever but this is going to make things uncomfortable.

  23. - Rahm's Middle Finger - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 6:51 pm:

    Toni clearly lied about knowing about Keller. Cisek watched her do nothing about it. Everyone crossed their fingers and hoped it wouldn’t come up.

    Her story doesn’t even come close to adding up. He denied it in March when she first talked to him, but acknowledged it in October? The only thing that changed was that she was contacted by a reporter.

    This is disqualifying IMO. Gross.

  24. - Anonchalant - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 6:54 pm:


    You read that and came away with the impression that Cisek is “a good and decent man”? He did nothing other than tell Toni. He also worked with Keller to offer Miller the Ethics job. Why would he do that? I wonder? He then watched Toni blatantly lie.

    Anyone who pays attention to the County recognizes that Toni is an awful judge of talent and a bad administrator. She lucked into Kim Foxx. Other than that, she’s removed all the good people and kept all the bad. It’s been a revolving door of Chiefs of Staff.

  25. - Shytown - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 7:04 pm:

    First of all, fine job by the Tribune.

    I don’t know what’s worse - Preckwinkle’s inept leadership on this entire issue or the fact that a member of her team tried to smear Emily’s good name. What in the world were they thinking? Appalling.

    This whole thing stinks. Whose head will roll now?

  26. - Just Me - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 7:40 pm:

    Upon further reflection, I now thing Preckwinkle should resign as County President. She is obviously far too comfortable with corruption and inappropriate behavior.

  27. - Roman - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 7:48 pm:

    == She used to be such a reformer. When did it change? ==

    For me, it changed when she sued the Retail Merchants Association for $17 million because they were essentially doing their job and fighting her beverage tax. That exposed a core arrogance — a “how-dare-you-question-me” attitude.

    We also saw it in her denials about her driver crashing a county-owned vehicle that was loaded with her campaign literature, her sticking by Joe Berrios, and we now see it in he handling of the Keller situation. It’s that arrogance that leads her to blatantly lie to reporters.

    She’s become Boss Toni.

  28. - Anonymous - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 8:02 pm:

    There were also all the red light violations when her driver would blow red lights. Running a red light can cause a fatal accident; keeping to her schedule is not more important.

  29. - Regular democrat - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 9:48 pm:

    Like i said earlier today preckwinkle will not run for mayor because of her new super super majority on the board.

  30. - Regular democrat - Thursday, Nov 8, 18 @ 9:51 pm:

    Oops i forgot the rest of the press release that states she can do more for healthcare with a dem supermajority and dems taking over in dc.

  31. - NorthsideNoMore - Friday, Nov 9, 18 @ 6:08 am:

    In a word “Beverage Tax”

  32. - Anonymous - Friday, Nov 9, 18 @ 7:30 am:

    In fairness, it appears none of this happened while he was at the county, or to people reporting to him.

    Preckwinkle was correct to be cautious and to get all the facts before moving forward.

  33. - Roman - Friday, Nov 9, 18 @ 8:05 am:

    == Preckwinkle was correct to be cautious and to get all the facts before moving forward. ==

    That might be a legit argument. Problem is, she lied about it. She told reporters she wasn’t aware of any allegations until two days before she fired him. When you lie about one part of your alibi, the credibility of the rest of the story falls apart.

  34. - You could say that, I couldn't - Friday, Nov 9, 18 @ 8:30 am:

    – In fairness, it appears none of this happened while he was at the county, or to people reporting to him. –

    Read the Trib article again. One of the incidents was on November 6, 2016. The other incidents happened before March 20, 2018. Keller was employed by Preckwinkle in a senior capacity during those dates.

  35. - Biker - Friday, Nov 9, 18 @ 8:40 am:

    Emily Miller is among the best of us.

  36. - Heardthings - Friday, Nov 9, 18 @ 8:57 am:

    This story has more legs…Looks like a pattern of protection from preckwinkle - I’d dig deeper.

  37. - Anonymous - Friday, Nov 9, 18 @ 9:19 am:

    ==Keller was employed by Preckwinkle in a senior capacity during those dates.==

    Yes. The point was the accused was not a county employee and did not have supervisory authority over her like Quinn and Hampton.

    Does that excuse it? No. It means she was right to get to the bottom of it.

  38. - Anonymous - Friday, Nov 9, 18 @ 9:22 am:

    Sorry - “accused” should have been “victim”

    My bad..

  39. - Powdered Whig - Friday, Nov 9, 18 @ 9:42 am:

    === Yes. The point was the accused was not a county employee and did not have supervisory authority over her like Quinn and Hampton.

    Does that excuse it? No. It means she was right to get to the bottom of it. ===

    Please. Preckwinkle lied to the press about this. Despite the fact that Madigan got a million times more scrutiny for the Hampton allegations, there has been no evidence that he was lying about what he knew.

  40. - Anon - Friday, Nov 9, 18 @ 10:06 am:

    My question is: Did Emily get the victim’s approval before disclosing what she did to the County?

    I don’t say this as someone who thinks she’s trying to boost Mendoza (I don’t). I wonder as someone who has faced sexual harrassment in the past and would immediately cut off anyone who moved that information without my explicit approval.

  41. - Biker - Friday, Nov 9, 18 @ 10:11 am:

    Anon, read the article, yes she did.

  42. - Anon - Friday, Nov 9, 18 @ 10:22 am:

    = Anon, read the article, yes she did. =

    Thank you, I missed that line the first time. I feel much better.

  43. - Anonymous - Friday, Nov 9, 18 @ 10:28 am:

    Yes, since in the MJM investigation there were texts and solif proof.

    Here, he is in a cab w 5 other people coming from a bar. Anyone else ever been in that situation?

  44. - You could say that, I couldn't - Friday, Nov 9, 18 @ 10:38 am:

    == The point was the [victim] was not a county employee and did not have supervisory authority over her like Quinn and Hampton. ==

    Maybe it matters what kind of legal claims are involved, but I don’t think that distinction matters much if we’re talking about tolerating sexual harassment.

    Remember, the victims here were involved in the political world. They were colleagues, even if not co-workers. Let’s say some guy goes to a convention and acts inappropriately towards other women who don’t work for the same company but are in the same field. I would say an employer is justified in terminating them.

    Or, to bring the Springfield context into it, would it be a defense for a staffer or legislator who harasses a female lobbyist to say, “Well, she doesn’t work for me?”

    Plus, for a position like Chief of Staff, are you really ever not working? Especially at political events?

    I honestly just don’t see the distinction here.

  45. - Albany Park Patriot - Friday, Nov 9, 18 @ 10:42 am:

    I didn’t like the pop tax, but I understand the reasons for it. Preckwinkle totally botched the rollout and making a case for this tax. It looks like she botched this personnel decision, too. Not a good first impression to be our mayor.

  46. - Anonchalant - Friday, Nov 9, 18 @ 10:59 am:

    Anon- Your point is that Toni shouldn’t have cared about the harassment because it wasn’t done in the office? Please go away.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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