Updated at 2:38 p.m.
House Speaker Michael Madigan’s office released a damning investigation Tuesday into pervasive sexual harassment within his office, where low-level staffers feared sexual advances, faced career-threatening bullying from his one-time top aide and wore fake wedding rings to fend off “creepy” behavior.
The long-awaited report by former federal prosecutor Maggie Hickey stopped short of directly casting blame on Madigan himself for the work culture over which he presided.
Instead, she put much of the responsibility on a former chief of staff — Timothy Mapes — whom Madigan fired last year as a result of misconduct complaints.
In fact, many people Hickey interviewed wished to remain anonymous because they feared retribution by Mapes — even though he’s been out of power for more than a year — and portrayed the speaker as an aloof, almost Oz-like character.
“Most people did not believe that Speaker Madigan would retaliate against them,” Hickey wrote. “Instead, the fear was that Speaker Madigan did not know who they were and, thus, would not know to defend them if they were punished or terminated.”
Hickey’s 202-page report, which cost taxpayers nearly $650,000 to produce, is the byproduct of more than a year’s worth of work in which she interviewed more than 80 current or former employees of Madigan’s state office or the House clerk’s office. A dozen state lawmakers were interviewed, as well.
In a statement that accompanied the report, the speaker accepted responsibility for the misdeeds that happened on his watch and that Hickey documented within his office, and she praised Madigan for fully cooperating with her investigation.
“The report reaffirms much of what we have heard in the past, and I take responsibility for not doing enough to prevent these issues in my office,” Madigan said. “Based on Ms. Hickey’s recommendations and best practices, we will take additional steps to address concerns raised in the report.”
It comes after Madigan has gotten intense scrutiny for not dealing promptly or appropriately with complaints of harassment and bullying. Alaina Hampton, who worked on House Democratic campaigns, filed a civil lawsuit against Madigan’s campaign organizations for not taking seriously her complaints of 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. Hampton’s claimed in court filings that she’s lost job opportunities as retribution for raising the issue.
Hampton did not immediately offer reaction to Hickey’s report when contacted Tuesday morning. A spokeswoman for the Democratic Party of Illinois told WBEZ on Tuesday it would not turn over an external report reviewing Hampton’s allegations.
The primary target in Hickey’s report was Mapes, who served in a multipronged capacity for Madigan as his one-time state chief of staff, his executive director at the Democratic Party of Illinois and former clerk of the Illinois House. Mapes ruthlessly wielded power in those state roles over his underlings, Hickey wrote.
“Most of the people interviewed — regardless of their views of Mr. Mapes — agreed that Mr. Mapes commonly threatened people’s jobs or reminded them that they were dispensable,” she said. “People believed that Mr. Mapes attempted to motivate workers through fear and that a few other supervisors throughout the years emulated this practice."
“Some people also raised the additional concern that, given Mr. Mapes’ political ties, he could make or break their careers outside of the speaker’s office, as well,” she said.
The report outlined what could only be regarded as a hellish work environment for some female staffers within the speaker’s office, who went to extraordinary lengths to insulate themselves from potential sexual harassers, both in and out of the state legislature.
“Several female workers said that, when they started, they were warned about particular people in the Capitol workplace to avoid, either because of their inappropriate comments, crude humor, or “creepy” behavior,” Hickey wrote.
“Some female workers said that, when they started working in the speaker’s office, they were warned by female co-workers to take steps to avoid sexual harassment, such as not drinking alcohol with representatives, not looking 'too available,' and wearing a fake wedding ring,” Hickey wrote.
Hickey also noted how workers under Mapes were forced to do what she characterized as “demeaning assignments,” often for the benefit of state representatives. Legislative assistants, whose salaries are paid for by taxpayers, reported having to vacuum lawmakers’ apartments, help them sell their houses, check on family members and do other errands.
Madigan fired Mapes last June after a colleague accused him of bullying her and dismissing sexual harassment complaints she’d brought forth.
In a statement released by Chicago lawyer Robert Clifford, whose office is representing Mapes, Madigan’s former aide said criticisms against him “do not truly appreciate the size of the responsibility of my position.”
But Mapes, for the first time, also flashed a measure of contrition.
“If my demeanor or approach to my job did not instill trust and a healthy work environment, I apologize,” he said. “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.”
In her report, Hickey also investigated harassment allegations against former state Rep. Lou Lang, a member of Madigan’s leadership team who resigned from the House. Hickey said there was not sufficient evidence to accuse him of wrongdoing.
Additionally, Hickey did not find evidence to substantiate claims by state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, that she faced retaliation from Madigan, state Rep. Robert Rita, D-Blue Island, or Mapes for publicly criticizing the speaker’s handling of sexual harassment claims.
Despite that finding, Cassidy praised Hickey’s work and particularly that her report was released by Madigan’s office free of censorship.
“As stated in the report, my main goal was to make the negative actions toward me stop, and they did,” Cassidy said. “Others now feel safer coming forward to share their story without fear of retaliation. I am pleased overall and particularly that the speaker’s office chose to share the full report with the public. It is the best path forward.”
To combat the culture of bullying and harassment, Hickey recommended that Madigan have a more visible role in the speaker’s office and be more accessible to his employees. She suggested Madigan host listening sessions, and hire separate people as ethics officer and as general counsel.
Read the report here:
Check back for more updates to this developing story.