Madigan's chief of staff resigns after sexual harassment allegations surface
House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) continues to be dogged by growing allegations of bullying and sexual harassment involving senior staffers, the latest episode fingering long-time Chief of Staff Tim Mapes, who resigned when the claims came to light on Wednesday.
Account technician and minutes clerk Sherri Garrett alleged bullying and harassment at the hands of Mapes.
“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,” Garrett said at a press conference. “My hope is that by coming forward, I can help to create space for others to do the same.”
In one incident reported to have taken place in December 2014, Garrett alleged that she was taking part in a conversation with several colleagues, planning inauguration logistics and the proper drop-off location for a judge, when Mapes allegedly instructed her 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.”
A few months later, after she had reportedly been told by a colleague in the clerk’s office of harassment by a member of the House Democratic Caucus, Garrett said she went to Mapes with her concerns, only to be pointedly asked if she was speaking out “because you are upset” the representative isn’t paying attention to you?
“I want to make sure that the workplace environment is better in the future for our daughters and our sons,” Garrett said. “We need to force fundamental change–not just lip service, not a quick hit solution, but real cultural transformation. Mapes has an inordinate amount of power in this state. 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.”
Garrett also alleged on the day of the State of the State Address, many people in Springfield were wearing black in solidarity with the #TimesUp movement, and Mapes notably wore blue while telling her, “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.”
Garrett said she now plans to file a complaint with the Legislative Inspector General and believes she has the support of the silent majority.
“It’s just time for this to stop,” Garrett said, “In reality, we are Democrats. We’re supposed to protect the people who can’t protect themselves.”
Garrett’s claims come on the heels of Maryann Loncar recently stepping forward to allege that she has faced acts of sexual harassment by Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), another close associate of Madigan.
"I applaud Maryann Loncar for stepping forward to have her voice heard,” Jillian Bernas, running against Rep. Michelle Mussman (D-Schaumburg) in the 55th District, recently posted on Facebook. ”It takes incredible strength and courage to challenge those in power."
The Prairie State Wire previously reported that Loncar went public with her allegations of sexual harassment against Lang just one day after he helped broker the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment in the state House. He has since resigned from his leadership role as deputy majority leader.
Additionally, Kevin Quinn, a Madigan political operative, has been accused of sexual harassment by former campaign aide Alaina Hampton, while local activist Denise Rotheimer stepped forward to lodge similar accusations against Sen. Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago).
In the wake of the lingering controversy, Rep. David McSweeney (R-Barrington Hills) has introduced two separate bills addressing the issue of sexual harassment, both of which have unanimously passed in the Illinois House and Senate.
House Bill 4243 would prevent public funds from being part of a payout to anyone connected to allegations of sexual harassment by an Illinois General Assembly member, and HB 4242 would require publishing information about severance agreements between employees or contractors of local government, school districts and community college districts.
“There is absolutely zero reason why public funds should be used in any way to settle sexual harassment cases involving politicians," McSweeney said. “However, it has happened at the congressional level. We here in Illinois are taking a proactive approach and making sure taxpayers will not pay to protect legislators who engage in this kind of repugnant behavior.”