The ongoing investigation into sexual harassment complaints in House Speaker Michael Madigan’s office could cost Illinois taxpayers up to $1.4 million — and it’s unclear whether the findings will ever be made public.
Under fire from members of his own House Democratic Caucus, Madigan announced last June he had hired the law firm Schiff Hardin to conduct an investigation into how complaints of bullying and harassment from his then-chief of staff and members of his political organizations were handled in the speaker’s office.
He selected former federal prosecutor Maggie Hickey to conduct the audit. Hickey, now a Schiff Hardin partner, had served as the executive inspector general under Madigan’s nemesis, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.
But nearly a year later, Hickey’s work continues.
WBEZ obtained contracts between the speaker’s office and Schiff Hardin through an open records request.
The documents show Hickey’s state contract has twice been extended, and that the value of the contracts total up to $1,380,000 — an outsized amount of money, considering the entire House of Representatives has an annual budget of $29 million.
The contract amount dwarfs the budget of the legislative inspector general, which investigates allegations of wrongdoing by legislators or staff. Last year, that office had a total budget of just $312,500.
Hickey’s current contract concludes June 30, more than a year after the investigation began. It’s not clear why Hickey’s investigation has taken so long.
“We are committed to completing a full and thorough investigation,” Hickey said in a written statement to WBEZ.
According to the firm, Schiff Hardin has billed the speaker’s office approximately $571,000 so far. Records with the Illinois comptroller show Schiff Hardin has been paid $388,091 as of March 11.
Hickey did not respond to further WBEZ questions, including whether her report will be made public once it’s completed.
In fact, it’s unclear whether Illinois taxpayers will ever get to see the findings of the investigation into Madigan, who is arguably the state’s most powerful politician.
“As requested by the Women’s Caucus, the Speaker has not placed any restrictions on Ms. Hickey’s investigation and does not intend to interfere with her process,” Madigan chief of staff Jessica Basham wrote in a statement to WBEZ.
Madigan’s noncommittal answer about releasing the final report troubled a former statehouse watchdog.
“There should be a way to make public the key findings and conclusions so that members of the public can collaborate with members of the General Assembly and find solutions to issues that have been really difficult for many years in Springfield and beyond,” former Legislative Inspector General Julie Porter said.
Porter was appointed to the office to investigate a backlog of complaints that had piled up while the position remained vacant for several years. She recently authored an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune stating that the legislative inspector general position is broken after she found wrongdoing, but the results were buried.
“One thing that is common here is the idea that important findings on issues of great interest to the public could be swept under the rug. That’s not healthy,” Porter said, speaking about the Madigan investigation. “There needs to be dialogue about these findings so that things can improve.”
Madigan’s previous chief of staff, Tim Mapes, was fired last June after a colleague accused him of bullying her and dismissing sexual harassment complaints she’d brought forth.
Additionally, Alaina Hampton, who worked on House Democratic campaigns, filed a civil lawsuit against Madigan’s campaign organizations over not taking seriously her complaints of receiving unwanted text messages from Kevin Quinn, her supervisor. Quinn, who’s denied wrongdoing, is the brother of Chicago Ald. Marty Quinn, 13th Ward, a top Madigan lieutenant. She’s claimed in court filings that she’s lost job opportunities as retribution for raising the issue.