Jim Dey | Allegations topple another on team Madigan

Jim Dey | Allegations topple another on team Madigan

Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan has got trouble.

Lordy, does he have trouble.

Not so much that he'll break a sweat in public.

But Madigan will at least purse his lips, because he just lost his second right-hand man within a week to another in a series of sexual-harassment allegations that continues to dog his political organization in Chicago and the speaker's office in Springfield.

The latest round of he said/she said came Wednesday when Springfield resident Sherri Garrett, an employee in the speaker's office, named Madigan's chief of staff Timothy Mapes as a bully and sexual harasser.

"I have decided to come forward because we have a serious and pervasive problem in our state government, and I could no longer remain silent about my own mistreatment. My hope is that by coming forward, I can help to create space for others to do the same," Garrett said.

Within the blink of an eye, Speaker Madigan sacked his longtime subordinate.

Madigan announced that "at my direction, Tim Mapes has resigned as my chief of staff and clerk of the Illinois House of Representatives." He pledged to continue to fight to protect women in the workplace.

"It is clear that the culture needs to change, and we need to ensure all issues are dealt with quickly and appropriately. 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," he said.

The timing could hardly be worse for the veteran Chicago politician. Garrett came forward Wednesday in the aftermath of harassment allegations leveled last week against one of Madigan's chief legislative lieutenants — state Rep. Lou Lang of Skokie.

At the same time Garrett was planning her public debut, Madigan's lawyers filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed against a Madigan campaign organization by Alaina Hampton. She's the former political foot soldier who alleges that she was sexually harassed to the point it forced her to abandon her career and political ambitions as one of Madigan's campaign workers.

Although Mapes was the target of Garrett's charges, Madigan will take heat along with him because, after all, the tone of any organization is set from the top down.

Mapes' standing in Madigan's political and legislative organizations cannot be minimized. He was — emphasis on was — chief of staff to the speaker, clerk of the Madigan-controlled state House of Representatives and executive director of the Democratic Party of Illinois, chaired by Madigan.

Weep no tears for Mapes. He's out, but he'll enjoy a state pension big enough to choke two horses.

Separating himself from Mapes probably was painful. But the public response from those who want to separate themselves from the Madigan sexual-harassment problem or oppose Madigan has been intense.

J.B. Pritzker, Madigan's choice for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, immediately called for Mapes to be "suspended without pay from all roles within the Democratic Party of Illinois and the speaker's office as an immediate and thorough independent investigation takes place."

In a written statement reflecting the tenor of the times — accusation is tantamount to guilt — Pritzker said that "upon completion of the investigation, JB ... believe(s) Tim Mapes should be fired from the Speaker's Office and step down from any roles within the Democratic Party."

Pritzker later modified his statement to say that Mapes should be fired "if the allegations are proven true." His first version probably was more reflective of the political exigencies* of the moment.

It's that kind of instantaneous hostile reaction that prompted Lang to immediately resign from three important party posts despite his claims that the accusations against him were "absurd." The Lang matter now is the subject of an investigation by the legislative inspector general, a position Madigan purposely kept vacant for several years until sexual-harassment allegations against state Sen. Ira Silverstein last fall forced him and other legislators to fill it with Chicago lawyer Julie Porter.

Since it's difficult to tell the alleged sexual harassers without a scorecard, here's a run-down of the onslaught on Madigan.

Two of his key political workers — Kevin Quinn and Shaw Decremer — have been forced out of his political organizations. Now, two of his close legislative associates — Lang and Mapes — have been removed from their powerful posts.

At the same time, Democratic state Rep. Kelly Cassidy accused Madigan of using Mapes to force her resignation from a part-time job in the Cook County sheriff's office as political retaliation for her position on sexual-harassment issues.

To top if off, Silverstein was defeated in the Democratic Party primary.

These allegations are not only becoming increasingly common but increasingly sophisticated in how they are presented to the public.

Garrett, who is seeking an inspector general's investigation, was assisted with her announcement by publicist Joanne Klonsky. Her lengthy press release detailed her client's grievances against Mapes and was headlined: "Madigan staff member comes forward about harassment by Chief of Staff Tim Mapes: Long-time State House employee cites repeated incidents of bullying, harassment in Springfield."

It turned out to be the press conference that shook the Capitol to its foundations — another big-shot Madigan associate who ran afoul of changing social norms instantly bit the dust.

* Word of the day — exigency. It's defined as a situation calling for immediate action or attention.

Jim Dey, a member of The News-Gazette staff, can be reached by email at jdey@news-gazette.com or by phone at 217-351-5369.

Sections (2):Columns, Opinion