Illinois Speaker Madigan’s Aide Accused Of ‘Sexual Harassment And/Or Assault’
Updated 8:38 p.m.
There are new details about an allegation that powerful Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s office did not act upon “sexual harassment and/or assault” complaints brought against one of his aides, according to federal court documents.
Lawyers for Alaina Hampton, a former political aide to the speaker, revealed the accusation in federal court documents made public Friday as part of the lawsuit she filed last year against Madigan’s political organizations. The filing also contains new details about Hampton’s claim that she was essentially blacklisted from working on several campaigns after she spoke up about getting harassed by a top Madigan aide.
The new allegations come after employees of both Madigan’s government and campaign operations have resigned or been fired for sexual harassment, intimidation or bullying over the past year.
While Madigan himself has not been accused of harassment, his handling of the numerous accusations against his employees has come under intense scrutiny as the #MeToo movement has swept through state politics.
Hampton is a Democratic campaign worker who last year accused Madigan, who also heads the state’s Democratic Party, of not properly addressing unwanted text messages from political operative Kevin Quinn. Quinn, who is the brother of Chicago Ald. Marty Quinn, was fired from Madigan’s operation just as Hampton went public with the allegations and filed a lawsuit. He has denied wrongdoing.
The new revelations of harassment and retaliation come in a court filing (pdf) related to that case.
Hampton’s lawyers write that she learned of two women who reported “sexual harassment and/or assault” by Travis Shea, who worked on Madigan’s government staff, to the speaker’s attorney.
But after reporting to Madigan’s attorney, Heather Wier Vaught, that “nothing was done in response,” Shea continued to work for the speaker’s office for two more years, according to the court filing. The document didn’t offer primary documentation of the complaints or any more details, except to say “Plaintiff’s investigation continues.”
Shea, who is now a registered lobbyist and with the firm Michael Best & Friedrich, did not immediately respond to WBEZ’s request for comment.
In a statement released Tuesday night, the speaker’s office acknowledged knowing about the allegations written in Hampton’s Friday court filing.
The statement said the two women requested confidentiality, and had contacted Wier Vaught in 2015 and 2016 with allegations that Shea “intimidated them and threatened to ‘make or break’ their careers.”
Madigan’s statement said his then-chief of staff, Tim Mapes, and Shea’s supervisor, Jessica Basham, were notified of the allegations. Mapes reprimanded Shea and Basham told Shea “he would not be given additional responsibilities,” according to the statement. It also said Basham found no other issues about Shea among his colleagues after the complaints were made.
“Speaker Madigan was not made aware of the allegations,” the statement reads. “Had the allegations been brought to the Speaker at the time, he would have terminated any employment relationship with Mr. Shea, as he has done on other occasions upon learning of such incidents.”
Mapes, Madigan’s former chief of staff and the former executive director of the Democratic Party of Illinois, parted ways with the speaker last year after a house clerk accused him of making inappropriate comments, joking about sexual harassment training and dismissing a complaint of sexual harassment.
Basham is Madigan’s new chief of staff.
The court documents from Hampton’s attorneys also detail for the first time what she has previously described as retaliation for her allegations against the powerful house speaker.
In the filings, Hampton claims she had difficulty finding work on several campaigns, despite being qualified for the jobs. She describes interviewing for several jobs that she did not get after she first raised her complaint internally in February 2017, according to her lawsuit.
In September 2017, Hampton claims she had talks with the Chicago Teachers Union about working on a campaign for state representative, according to court documents. In October 2017, she was under the impression CTU was ready to offer her a position, but just a week later Hampton was asked by a CTU lobbyist “if she was ‘on the outs’ with Ald. Marty Quinn as someone had informed [CTU Political Director] Stacy Davis Gates that such was the case.”
Hampton didn’t hear back from CTU after that conversation, the filing states.
“We’re frankly baffled we’d even be mentioned here,” said CTU spokeswoman Chris Geovanis. “We take orders for any hiring decisions from no one. We are quite capable of making our own hiring decisions.” Geovanis claimed Hampton had already done work for an opposing campaign in that race.
Also in October 2017, Hampton had conversations about a campaign job with another prospective candidate for state representative, Kristen Crowell, her attorneys write in the court filing. After “numerous conversations” about working with the Crowell campaign, Hampton never heard back.
Hampton says in her lawsuit that she reported her harassment to Madigan himself in November 2017, but filed her lawsuit in March 2018 after she was dissatisfied with how his office handled the case.
After suing, Hampton says she learned she didn’t get the job with Crowell because the candidate “had been told not to work” with Hampton, according to Friday’s filing. Crowell never filed for state representative and she declined to comment.
Hampton also claims that Chicago Ald. Deb Mell, 33rd Ward, contacted her last summer — months after she’d taken her accusations public — to be the campaign manager of her re-election bid.
But during a meeting, Mell “indicated she was worried” that Madigan’s political organizations would retaliate against her if she hired Hampton due to the pending lawsuit, according to court filings.
Hampton also said she pitched campaign work from her consulting firm to three other aldermanic campaigns: Ald. Scott Waguespack, 32nd Ward, and John Arena, 45th Ward, and 46th Ward challenger Erika Wozniak, according to last week’s filing.
Joanna Klonsky, a spokeswoman for Waguespack, Arena, and Wozniak told WBEZ in a statement: “As set forth in documents attached to a recent court filing, and as, in fact, is the case, Alaina Hampton’s non-employment by the campaigns of Ald. Waguespack, Ald. Arena and Ms. Wozniak Francis was unrelated to the events described in her lawsuit against Michael Madigan and others.”
On Wednesday, Klonsky added, “None of Ms. Hampton’s interaction with any of these three campaigns were affected or influenced in any way by the allegations in her suit or the defendants in that case.” Klonsky is additionally a spokeswoman for Hampton.
Mell, who was a state representative before becoming alderman, is now in the political fight of her life as she faces a runoff election against Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez. Mell did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Since Hampton first publicized her allegations against Kevin Quinn and Madigan’s political operation, several Madigan employees have left or been fired from the speaker’s inner circle.
After Madigan cut ties with Kevin Quinn, the speaker parted ways with another longtime aide, Shaw Decremer, who was accused of inappropriate behavior.
Madigan has been in damage control since then. He’s also hired women for top jobs in his political and government operations. Mary Morrissey is now executive director of the state Democratic Party.
In addition, a new legislative inspector general has been appointed following other claims of a pervasive culture of sexual harassment and abuse at the Illinois capitol were made public.
Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold.