Report finds bullying, harassment, bad behavior widespread under the dome in Springfield

Bullying, not harassment, has been the biggest problem in House Speaker Michael Madigan’s office, according to a report from former Illinois Office of Executive Inspector General Maggie Hickey. The Center Square

Advertisements

Bullying, not harassment, has been the biggest problem in House Speaker Michael Madigan’s office, according to a report from former Illinois Office of Executive Inspector General Maggie Hickey.

Madigan released the full report Tuesday. Hickey was asked to review the workplace culture under the long-time House Speaker.

Some workers in Madigan’s office reported inappropriate sexual conduct, but more said they had experienced bullying in the office.

“I take responsibility for not doing enough previously to prevent issues in my office,” Madigan said in a statement released along with the report. “I am ready to work with the other legislative caucus to ensure that everyone has a safe workplace.”

Hickey’s investigation started a year ago amid the #MeToo and #TimesUp anti-harassment movements. A year before that, a group of around 300 people who work in or around the capitol, either in state government or with non-state agencies that do work in the capital, signed on to a letter that said the culture under the dome needed to change.

After several instances of alleged harassment, bullying and other inappropriate behavior from workers in his office, Madigan created an advisory group of state lawmakers and picked Hickey to investigate the allegations and the culture in his office.

“People from across the Capitol workplace reported that they had witnessed or personally experienced what they described as inappropriate sexual conduct in the Capitol workplace,” the report said. “They described conduct that included inappropriate sexual comments and unwelcome sexual advances.”

“Female workers, for example, were more likely to describe personal experiences hearing inappropriate sexual comments,” the report said. “More workers, however, said that they had witnessed or personally experienced what they considered to be bullying. In fact, most workers across the Speaker’s Office and across genders and positions said that they were more concerned with bullying than with inappropriate sexual conduct.”

Hickey investigated three specific allegations. The report didn’t find enough evidence to back up claims made by state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, that then-Chief of Staff and Clerk of the House Tim Mapes, state Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island, and Madigan, D-Chicago, retaliated against Cassidy for speaking out against how Madigan’s office was handling discrimination and harassment claims.

Hickey’s report also found there wasn’t enough evidence to back up claims of unwanted sexual advances activist Maryann Loncar’s made against then-state Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie.

Loncar said in an interview with The Center Square that she sees there being more bullying under the dome than there is harassment. 

“There’s always innuendo to see of how far they can get to say something inappropriate,” Loncar said. “We are stuck between no one having ethics or morals and no truly independent Legislative Inspector General.”

Loncar said she won’t go to the LIG because it lacks independence so she said she gave at least 200 pages of information to the FBI and that she’s waiting for their report.  

“The fact that an investigator does not find sufficient evidence to support a claim does not mean that something did not happen, nor does it mean that the complainant did not genuinely believe that something happened,” according to the Hickey’s report.

Hickey’s report did find enough evidence to support employee Sherri Garrett’s allegations that Mapes made inappropriate sexual comments over the course of several years. Mapes resigned after Garrett’s allegations were made public in June 2018.

“Mapes didn’t discharge his duties as Chief of Staff and Clerk of the House in a courteous and efficient manner when he made inappropriate comments,” the report said. “Mapes’ comments also undermined the efficient performance of his duties, because it meant that Ms. Garrett no longer felt comfortable voicing her concerns about workplace harassment to him or others. This allowed Mr. Mapes’s behavior to continue unchecked until Ms. Garrett’s press conference, which led to the quick and unplanned resignation of Mr. Mapes.”

Hickey said her team interviewed more than 100 people, including current and former staffers who worked in the Office of the Speaker and the Office of the Clerk. The report said Mapes commonly threatened people’s jobs or reminded them that they were dispensable.

“I thank Ms. Hickey for her work in substantially confirming my allegations against Mr. Mapes and for providing concrete recommendations to Speaker Madigan on how to improve the culture in Springfield,” Garrett said in a statement. “I truly hope that the workplace culture changes so that people doing this important work are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.”

Garrett also thanked state Rep. Kelly Cassidy for her “leadership, guidance and friendship during this process.” Garrett said she would not have come forward without Cassidy’s support.

Mapes defended his 40 years of service, which included 25 years at Madigan’s chief of staff, in a statement released Tuesday.

“I have always placed the needs of good government above all other concerns and I always did my best to ensure that these needs were addressed with a sense of urgency,” Mapes said in the statement. “If my demeanor or approach to my job did not instill trust and a healthy work environment, I apologize. I truly did my best, no matter the shortcomings that are now ascribed to me, and I always acted in good faith and for the benefit of the people of the State of Illinois.”

Hickey’s report said that things improved after Mapes resigned.

“Workplace culture has improved since [Mapes] left the Speaker’s Office,” the report said. “Others, however, remained skeptical and believed that any improvements to the Speaker’s Office are superficial. A small group believed that long-lasting improvement in the Speaker’s Office is impossible.”

Outside of Madigan’s state government operations, and separate from the Hickey report, there were also allegations of harassment, intimidation and retaliation in Madigan’s political operations. Alaina Hampton was a staffer for Democratic political campaigns under Madigan. She filed a lawsuit against Madigan and his political operations last year for what she said was retaliation when she alleged a supervisor was harassing her. That case is still in the courts.

“It was ingrained in my mind from day one that I was dispensable, and I feared saying no to any task I was asked to do whether I was being paid or not – and I never worked with Tim Mapes,” Hampton posted on Twitter after the Hickey report was published.  

Hickey’s report recommended creating a human resources unit, improving the process of fielding and investigating allegations of discrimination or harassment, holding frequent training sessions with staff and supervisors and fostering an “open door policy,” among other changes.

“We believe that the Speaker’s Office has already begun to take steps toward addressing these issues, but these issues cannot be addressed and then forgotten,” the report said. “The Speaker’s Office will need to remain diligent to set the standard for its workplace, other workplaces throughout the state, and other legislatures.”

While the report focused on the Speaker’s Office and, by extension, the Democratic Caucus, it found that “harassment affects all workforces, regardless of political party or affiliation.”

The report noted accusations regarding former Republican state Reps. Nick Sauer and Jerry Long. Sauer, who resigned after the allegations were made public, was accused of posting explicit images of two ex-girlfriends online without their consent and faces criminal charges in Lake County. Sauer has pleaded not guilty, according to court records. Jerry Long faced accusations he had inappropriate contact with a campaign staffer. Jerry Long lost a re-election bid after he lost support from his party.

“All four caucuses must work together if we are going to successfully effectuate real and lasting change,” Madigan said.

The Center Square

Advertisements

What do you think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: