CHICAGO (CBS) — Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s chief of staff, Timothy Mapes, has been fired from his government and campaign positions, after an aide in the speaker’s office accused him of sexual harassment and bullying.
In a statement, Madigan said Jessica Basham has been named Chief of Staff effective immediately.
“My office was aware of the comments made by then Representative Dunkin and took action to handle the matter. That issue had been disclosed publicly earlier this year by my office along with all other known allegations of harassment,” said Madigan. “It is clear that the culture needs to change and we need to ensure all issues are dealt with quickly and appropriately.”
Madigan added “I have stated my commitment to eliminating harassment of any kind in the Capitol, as well as all political committees, and my desire to ensure we create a culture where individuals feel secure in making a complaint. I intend to appoint an individual with extensive experience conducting investigations to review all operations of the House of Representatives, including but not limited to the Clerk’s Office where Ms. Garrett works.”
Sherri Garrett, an account technician and minutes clerk in the speaker’s office, came forward Wednesday with claims that Mapes made repeated inappropriate comments and failed to take allegations of sexual harassment by others seriously.
“Over the course of the last several years, I have endured and have personally witnessed bullying and repeated harassment that was often sexual and sexist in nature in my workplace,” Garrett said.
Wednesday afternoon, Madigan ordered Mapes to resign his positions as chief of staff, Clerk of the House, and executive director of the Democratic Party of Illinois, which Madigan chairs.
Garrett listed a string of encounters with Mapes in which he either allegedly harassed her, or made light of sexual harassment claims made by her colleagues.
In one instance, in December 2014, while staffers at the statehouse were preparing or inauguration proceedings, Mapes allegedly told her out of the blue that “I needed to make sure that I was not showing my pink bra,” because “the girls who work on the second floor like to leave little to the imagination.”
She said Mapes seemed to be talking about her and colleagues who work on the second floor of the Stratton Building at the state capitol complex. Garrett claimed Mapes just walked off when she asked why he said that.
In another instance in September 2015, Garrett said a former co-worker approached her with allegations of sexual harassment by a House Democrat. Garrett said she shared that information with Mapes, asking him to make sure the representative stopped such behavior.
“Mr. Mapes then said to me, ‘Are you reporting the situation because you were upset the representative isn’t paying attention to you?’” Garrett claimed.
Garrett said it was a difficult decision to go public with her allegations, but she said she was dismayed by how Madigan’s office has handled a string of earlier allegations of sexual harassment at the Statehouse.
“I have a sincere loyalty to him, but I have felt disappointed in his administration’s handling of cases like mine. I have not felt like I have had a safe path to report my experiences,” she said.
In February, former Madigan campaign worker Alaina Hampton accused longtime Madigan aide Kevin Quinn of sexually harassing her for months. Hampton said Quinn, her immediate supervisor, sent her 75 text messages, repeatedly complimenting her appearance and asking her out on dates, but she turned him down and asked him to stop, but he wouldn’t.
Hampton has filed a federal lawsuit against Madigan’s campaign fund and the Democratic Party of Illinois, which Madigan chairs, saying she faced retaliation after reporting Quinn.
She has said she reported the harassment to Quinn’s brother, Ald. Marty Quinn, who is a longtime ally of Madigan. However, she said the alderman chose to remove his brother from his supervisory role in the Madigan organization. The speaker fired Kevin Quinn only after Hampton came forward with the allegations.
Within days of Hampton coming forward, longtime Madigan lieutenant Shaw Decremer also was ousted over allegations of inappropriate conduct leveled by female lawmakers.
Last week, Rep. Lou Lang resigned his position as deputy house majority leader, and his positions on two key House panels, after a medical marijuana advocate accused him of sexual harassment and verbal abuse.
Maryann Loncar claimed Lang tried to seduce her, then tried to crush her when she opposed his position on medical marijuana. Lang stated the allegations are false, saying, “From beginning to end, the allegations are absurd.”
Last October, victims’ rights advocate Denise Rotheimer accused State Sen. Ira Silverstein of sexually harassing her while the two were working on legislation to increase penalties for violent sex offenders. Rotheimer claimed Silverstein tried to pursue a romantic relationship, and then killed her legislation when she rejected him.
A temporary legislative inspector general appointed in the wake of Rotheimer’s allegations concluded Silverstein behaved “in a manner unbecoming of a legislator,” but that his actions did not amount to sexual harassment.
Garrett said, while she believes lawmakers have taken some positive steps toward addressing a culture of sexual harassment at the statehouse, she thinks they have not gone far enough.
“We need to force fundamental change, not just lip service, not a quick fix, but real cultural transformation,” she said.
Garrett said there needs to be a truly independent third party to investigate harassment claims and other misconduct allegations at the statehouse; one that doesn’t answer to the legislature or the speaker.