Editorial | Problems, problems

Editorial | Problems, problems

The rough edges of House Speaker Mike Madigan's men are causing him more problems.

Madigan's problems with women keep getting worse.

A week after he was forced to dump one of his main campaign workers in connection with sexual-harassment charges comes news that Madigan has had to fire a second one in connection with a similar complaint.

Making matters worse for Madigan, the second casualty isn't just some patronage worker and campaign operative, but a real heavyweight in Madigan's politics-comes-first world.

Shaw Decremer, according to Madigan, "will no longer be involved with any activities of my political committees" because Decremer's "inappropriate behavior" toward a state House candidate and members of the candidate's staff.

What did Decremer do to become off-limits in the new zero-tolerance atmosphere Madigan is overseeing?

It's not clear.

The complainant, state Rep. Deb Conroy of Villa Park, characterized Decremer's wrongdoing as "an abuse of power."

"It's not sexual harassment per se. I guess it's harassment, but I feel like it's been handled. We change the culture by calling out the bullies, by saying this behavior is not acceptable, and it needs to change," she said.

Decremer is a political heavyweight and, if a Chicago Tribune story characterizing his demeanor is even close to being accurate, a genuine jerk.

The Tribune story related Decremer's visit to the headquarters of a rival campaign, where he made a dramatic entry by announcing to those present that "you aren't going to like me."

The story related that Decremer proceeded to insult those present until invited to leave by legislative candidate Carole Cheney, the candidate Decremer was trying to beat.

Before he left, Decremer reportedly asked Cheney if she would pose for a picture with him because "I keep pictures of all the people we beat." Note Decremer's use of the word "we." The Madigan organization plays hardball against its foes, insults being the least of its tactics.

Despite that kind of obnoxious demeanor, Decremer has somehow become a lobbyist of top rank in Springfield, probably because he has Speaker Madigan's ear. Decremer represents, among others, ComEd, the Dish Network and the Illinois State Medical Society.

So it's another black eye for the Madigan gang. But anyone foolish enough to worry about the speaker maintaining his grip on power need not be overly concerned.

He came up with a solution over the weekend. And it's a doozy, one designed to put the controversy behind him.

Madigan appointed a three-woman committee — U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, Comptroller Susana Mendoza and local state Rep. Carol Ammons. As loyal Madigan supporters, they can be expected to play a key role in putting this issue to rest.

They'll need time — lots of time — to study the issue and make recommendations.

In the meantime, Speaker Madigan or his spokesman can evade any questions on the subject that are sent their way by noting that, having put together a blue-ribbon panel to study the issue, it would be presumptuous to speak out before it has finished its work.

As far as future prospects go, no one need throw any pity parties for Decremer or Kevin Quinn, the first one to go.

There are always second acts in Chicago politics for those who run afoul of the rules and then are cast aside. Banishment usually is temporary for those with the right pedigrees or connections. There are many government jobs, many campaign committees and many organizations on whose behalf to lobby.

Quinn and Decremer, eventually, will have their pick.

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