Timothy Mapes, the one-time right-hand man of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, was a political force of nature until last year when he suffered a head-on collision with the #MeToo movement.
A one-time terror of House staffers and legislators alike, Mapes’ career as a Madigan operative — chief of staff, clerk of the Illinois House and executive director of the Illinois Democratic Party — went up in smoke in June 2018. That’s when he was accused of bullying members of Madigan’s staff and sexually harassing female employees. No sooner were the allegations made than Mapes, a longtime Madigan associate, was out on his ear.
Madigan announced that Mapes resigned “at my direction.” He also contended that the legislature’s “culture” must change and called for an outside investigation.
Madigan’s shock at learning of the Legislature’s hostile culture for worker bees, particularly in the House, was akin to Captain Renault’s outrage in discovering there was gambling going on at Rick’s Cafe Americain. But the Diminutive Don sold it well, and no one has the stomach to challenge him anyway.
The first investigation — carried out by former federal prosecutor Maggie Hickey and released in mid-August — concluded that Mapes had been a bad boy. He was characterized as an autocratic leader who regularly threatened all employees with dismissal and occasionally insulted female employees with demeaning comments.
In response, Mapes said he held his employees to the same high standard to which he adhered.
This week, another report — this one by new legislative inspector general Carol Pope — cited Mapes’ various sins and concluded that he should never again be hired by the state of Illinois.
This time, Mapes didn’t hold his tongue. Through his lawyer, he acknowledged he ran a tight ship but denied any sexual harassment.
If facts mattered, Mapes might have a decent defense. But in a political and public-relations mess, they don’t. Nonetheless, here’s Mapes’ side of the story.
Citing sexual harassment’s legal definition, Mapes’ lawyer — James Pullos — denied that any of the five alleged incidents that occurred between 2013 and 2018 fit the legal standard.
Quoting state law, Pullos said sexual harassment involves repeated unwelcome advances conditioned on continuing employment and/or employment decisions, creates a hostile working environment or interferes with an employee’s job performance.
Pullos said the alleged incidents involving Mapes’ accuser, Sherri Garrett, a 14-year Madigan employee, met none of those standards. Indeed, Pullos said Mapes never expressed any sexual interest in Garrett.
The first incident occurred in 2013, when Garrett complained that then-state Rep. Kenneth Dunkin, D-Chicago, made sexually inappropriate remarks to her. She did not report them, but Garrett’s husband vented about what happened to unidentified “Witness 1.”
Witness 1 reported the husband’s call to Mapes, and after discussion about what, if anything, Mapes should do, Mapes apparently spoke to Dunkin about not repeating his misconduct. He later told Garrett that she “did not need to worry” about Dunkin anymore. Mapes’ misconduct apparently was that “Witness 1 had to insist that Mapes handle the situation.”
A so-called “pink bra” incident occurred in January 2014, when Mapes had a conversation about “professional dress” at upcoming inauguration ceremonies. Garrett said Mapes warned her not “to show your pink bra” during the event. Mapes said he mentioned a “pink bra” — but not Garrett’s pink bra — in the “context of an earlier incident involving another person’s inappropriate dress.”
In 2015, Garrett reported to Mapes that a House member was showing inappropriate interest in a fellow female employee. Mapes drew her ire when he reportedly said to her, “So are you upset because this representative isn’t paying attention to you?”
Garrett said the exchange left her feeling “she could not report anything to Mapes.” Mapes’ lawyer responded that “it is inconceivable that, without more, a reasonable person would conclude Mapes’ response constituted sexual harassment against Ms. Garrett.”
In April 2018, Mapes wore a “blue suit” to work on a day when a group of employees had decided everyone should wear black to show their sympathy for sexual-harassment victims. Mapes reportedly said that he, not others, would decide how he would dress, a remark Garrett described as “snide” and meant to “demean the seriousness of sexual-harassment training.”
The final incident occurred in May 2018, when he approached her — “staring” — in the well of the Illinois House. A discussion on the subject of infidelity ensued, with Mapes reportedly referring to a former employee who would not cheat on her spouse and noting that the House has a reputation where legislators and employees do fool around on their spouses.
“Ms. Garrett was thinking to herself, ‘Why are you even telling me this?’” the inspector general’s report states.
Mapes later said to Garrett, “It’s not that I’m implying that you’re running around on” her husband. Garrett, however, was not mollified, becoming “very shook up and found it very unsettling the way Mapes was staring at her.”
“It was following this incident that Ms. Garrett decided she would have to go public with her experiences,” the inspector general’s report states.