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Whistleblower strongly disagrees with IG findings

Tuesday, Jul 16, 2019

* Tribune

A Cook County watchdog’s investigation concluded Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations against her former chief of staff was “reasonable,” but said the county needs to come up with a better way to consider complaints of improper behavior by employees when they’re off the clock.

In a summary released Monday, Inspector General Patrick Blanchard noted that the woman who accused then-Preckwinkle chief of staff John Keller of inappropriately touching her in 2016 initially was unwilling to come forward. When the woman decided to do so months later as Preckwinkle geared up to run for mayor, Preckwinkle looked into the woman’s account and took action, Blanchard added.

The woman’s “hesitancy to come forward was reasonable,” Blanchard wrote. “The president’s assertion that she would not take action against an employee based on unsubstantiated rumor is also reasonable.”

Blanchard went on to note a lack of clarity about how to handle allegations relating to county employees’ behavior outside work that could “bring disrepute on the county.” He recommended the process for such cases “be clarified so to eliminate any confusion surrounding whether a report can be filed under these circumstances and how to do so.”

A Preckwinkle spokeswoman said the office recently received the recommendations and have “taken them under advisement.” Stephanie Henson also said the county is putting in place recommendations from an anti-harassment panel Preckwinkle formed in the wake of the Keller firing.

The full report is here. The IG claimed the investigation turned up no “culture of sexual harassment or discrimination.”

* Our old friend Emily Miller helped bring this case to light and she sent out a statement yesterday…

I understand the desire to believe that the culture of sexual harassment and discrimination are pervasive everywhere other than in Cook County government, and it would be nice if that were true.

Based on my personal experience and the experiences shared with me by other women who I believe, I disagree with the finding that there is no pervasive culture of sexual harassment in Cook County government.

Unfortunately, women will continue to miss out on opportunities for professional advancement because of the culture of sexual harassment. The fact is that I could not consider accepting a position in Cook County government because it would have been dangerous for me to work for a man that assaulted my friend and harassed other women I know. If that’s not indicative of a culture of sexual harassment, we need a new measuring stick.

I look forward to the day when the process works for women and whistleblowers and will continue advocating for culture shifts. This finding is not a setback—it’s a spotlight on the work that lies ahead, and I’m ready for it.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - DIstant watcher - Tuesday, Jul 16, 19 @ 1:02 pm:

    It’s not the job of the IG to criticize and condemn. IGs are fact finders who make recommendations, and they should go where the facts lead them.

    There will always be more work to do, even and perhaps especially when the complainant doesn’t agree with the finding. Good for Emily that she’s up for it.

  2. - Charlie Brown - Tuesday, Jul 16, 19 @ 1:16 pm:

    I am not sure what system Emily Miller envisions.

  3. - Michael Westen - Tuesday, Jul 16, 19 @ 1:27 pm:

    Blanchard has been in Preckwinkle’s pocket from day one. He sat on the SUV story for almost a year with no interview with her or the driver until the story broke in the media.

  4. - Front - Tuesday, Jul 16, 19 @ 1:35 pm:

    Emily is great. She was one of the few in Pritzker’s campaign who knew anything about Illinois. She is smart, capable and has a ton of integrity. Not sure what she is doing now, but I hope she has a senior role with the administration. Pritzker brought us casinos and marijuana. If that is your thing, great. I hope he focuses on agencies going forward. If so, Emily would be a real asset.

  5. - Roman - Tuesday, Jul 16, 19 @ 2:01 pm:

    == He sat on the SUV story for almost a year with no interview with her or the driver until the story broke in the media. ==

    Actually he sat on it almost two years, Nov. of ‘16 until October ‘18.

    More kid gloves from IG Blanchard this time, too. He found that: “The President’s account to the public (on Keller) is consistent with the accounts of the complainant.”

    The problem with that is Preckwinkle gave inconsistent accounts to the public. In the fall of 2018, she told a press conference that she knew nothing of complaints against Keller until a few days before, when in fact she had been warned about his conduct several months prior. She changed her story after the Tribune uncovered it was a lie.

    This is not the last we’ll hear of this. Some of Keller alleged shenanigans occurred while he worked on Marie Newman’s campaign. I’m guessing Dan Lipinski will spend a lot of money highlighting the topic.

  6. - lakeside - Tuesday, Jul 16, 19 @ 2:57 pm:

    ==I am not sure what system Emily Miller envisions.==

    “when the process works for women” and when women don’t “miss out on opportunities for professional advancement because of the culture of sexual harassment.”

    Feel like she was pretty straightforward, Charles.

  7. - Charlie Brown - Tuesday, Jul 16, 19 @ 4:57 pm:

    @Lakeside -

    Okay, But my understanding is that the employer in this case acted quickly when a complaint was made.

    The point, and it is a fair one, that victims are reluctant to come forward is not lost on me. What does she think the employer did wrong or what should the employer do differently going forward is what i am not clear on.

    I do not see a concrete action item here.

  8. - Becky Carroll - Tuesday, Jul 16, 19 @ 5:24 pm:

    It’s a real disappointment to see so many comments dismissing Emily Miller on this post. She spoke her truth. No one has the right to take that away from her. No one. And we should believe women. Let’s face it, the processes that are in place to address issues of sexual harassment and harassment in general are not designed to protect victims who come forward to tell their story. I am shocked and saddened by the number of women who have contacted me over the last two years about their stories of being sexually harassed in government and politics. They are dismissed. They are ridiculed. They are questioned. They are bullied. And people wonder why there are so few willing to come forward publicly to call out the harassment they have faced. So I say bravo Emily and bravo to all of those who speak up for themselves or for others.

  9. - Biker - Tuesday, Jul 16, 19 @ 5:31 pm:

    Emily Miller is among the best of us.

  10. - GrapeCrush - Tuesday, Jul 16, 19 @ 7:34 pm:

    How come there are so many women in power positions at the county, yet so many of their male subordinates manage by bulling and verbal abuse? Emily Miller speaks the truth, and Becky Carroll tells it like it is.

  11. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Wednesday, Jul 17, 19 @ 6:41 am:

    ==It’s a real disappointment to see so many comments dismissing Emily Miller on this post.==
    I don’t see a single comment “dismissing Emily Miller on this post”. Was it removed?

  12. - Charlie Brown - Wednesday, Jul 17, 19 @ 7:14 pm:

    No one is dismissing Emily Miller, she is a senior policy advisor and I am asking for her policy recommendations.

    I would take issue with an earlier post diminishing the contribution of other Pritzker staffers, particularly women, who played prominent roles in his victory. There is no need to tear other women down to lift Miller up.

    As I posted elsewhere, we ought to make sure that Keller does not simply re-enter county government thru a revolving door if we can.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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