SPRINGFIELD - The controversy over complaints of sexual harassment being ignored by House Speaker Mike Madigan continues to simmer throughout the state's capitol. Now, there are accusations that the Speaker is retaliating against members of his House Democrat Caucus for speaking up against the way Madigan is handling the situation
Wednesday, candidate for Illinois Attorney General Erika Harold entered the discussion with recommendations to address the Democratic majority in the General Assembly’s failure to confront the #MeToo movement in a press release.
“The failure by Speaker Madigan, Senator Kwame Raoul and the Democratic majority in the General Assembly to enact meaningful reform of the investigation and complaint resolution process is a failure of leadership,” Harold said. “Women deserve real reform, and as Illinois’ Attorney General, I will demand no less.”
On October 23, 2017, an open letter detailing pervasive sexual harassment in Springfield was first circulated. In November, the General Assembly quickly passed legislation that was supposed to take steps to address sexual harassment in government. However, in February, a former aide to Speaker Mike Madigan went public after a complaint she submitted detailing sexual harassment in the Speaker's own political organization was unsatisfactorily addressed. This week, Representative Kelly Cassidy of Chicago released details of retaliation she faced by the Speaker’s official staff after calling for an independent investigation of the former aide’s allegations.
After intense pressure, Speaker Madigan finally called for an investigation by the Legislative Inspector General. However, the current process remains one in which the Legislative Inspector General is not empowered to conduct an independent investigation but instead must obtain permission from an ethics commission comprised of legislators before issuing any subpoenas. Moreover, it is the legislatively comprised ethics commission—and not an independent entity—that ultimately decides the outcome of any investigation and whether a guilty party is identified to the public.
“That Speaker Madigan would welcome an investigation by someone with no power to hold him accountable is unsurprising and indicative of the culture of corruption that is all too prevalent in Springfield,” Harold added.
Harold recommends the following changes:
- the law governing the Legislative Inspector General’s position should be amended to provide for an investigation that is independent of the General Assembly’s influence.
- the ethics commission should be expanded to include members of the public, so that legislators will be accountable not just to their colleagues in Springfield but also to their constituents.
- if the ethics commission finds evidence that a legislator engaged in sexual harassment, retaliation or other misconduct, then a Complaint should be filed with the independent Illinois Courts Commission, as opposed to being resolved by the ethics commission.
- the Illinois Courts Commission should be empowered to censure, fine or recommend for removal members of the legislature found guilty of sexual harassment or other misconduct.
- the perpetrator’s identity should be made public, as the public is entitled to know which legislators abuse their power and position.
“The process for investigating and resolving allegations of legislative misconduct must be reformed. As a woman who has experienced sexual harassment and knows the importance of ensuring that everyone is treated fairly in the workplace and is protected from retaliation, I am committed as Illinois’ next Attorney General to advocating for real reform,” Harold said.