SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan has asked for an outside review of whether he or his staff retaliated against a lawmaker for speaking out on sexual harassment.
The Chicago Democrat released a letter Tuesday to Legislative Inspector General Julie Porter. It seeks a probe into claims by Chicago Democratic Rep. Kelly Cassidy that the interference of Madigan allies forced her resignation from a part-time job with the Cook County Sheriff's Department.
WMAQ-TV reported Monday that Cassidy contends she's a target because she called for an independent investigation in February of allegations that staff members in Madigan's political operation had not been properly disciplined for sexual harassment.
Cassidy said intimidation made its way to her two times. She said it happened most recently last week when she resigned from a part-time ethics job with Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart over legislation Dart wanted but she opposed.
State Representative Bob Rita, a Madigan ally, was asked to sponsor the bill.
“He called me over and asked me if I was still opposed to my boss’ bill and how it could be that I was allowed to be opposed to my boss’ bill,” Cassidy said. “It was very clear to me that this job was the leverage that was available to be used against me as retribution for speaking out."
It was February when Cassidy first spoke out calling Madigan’s efforts to reduce sexual harassment in the wake of his own aide’s sexual harassment allegations as not enough.
At the time, she said Madigan’s chief of staff, Tim Mapes, made a call to Dart’s office, asking about Cassidy’s part-time job with the sheriff’s department. That was the first strike, she said. Representative Rita’s conversation was strike two. It was then that Cassidy left Dart’s office.
“My goal here was to not have a third instance of intimidation or retaliation. And so coming forward after the second, the first being February, the second being last week, it was pretty clear to me that there would be more. So my goal in resigning and speaking out was to get that behind me and be able to do my job without that interference,” Cassidy said.
In a statement, Dart’s office said in part:
“[Cassidy] opposed the bill and the legislative solution our office was seeking to protect the over 1,000 female staff that work in the Cook County Jail. Last Thursday, she chose to submit her resignation which we accepted.”
On Tuesday, Madigan released two letters himself, one to his handpicked inspector general, asking her to open another investigation into Cassidy’s allegations of retribution. The second was to Cassidy saying he had never taken any action to interfere with her job with the sheriff’s office.
“The letter, frankly is very much like our conversation back in February when he was really insistent that he didn’t direct Jack Hinz to go after Alaina Hampton. I said to him then, ‘Mister Speaker, I absolutely believe you. I know you didn’t direct him to do it because you didn’t have to.’ And in this instance, I am confident that he’s telling the truth. He didn’t direct anyone to do these things. He didn't have to. That’s how this works. That’s how the operation has always worked,” Cassidy said.
Gov. Bruce Rauner tweeted out, "This kind of corruption is what I fight every day. Retaliation against Rep. Kelly Cassidy for standing with a victim of sexual harassment is unacceptable."
The Senate Women's Caucus issued a statement Tuesday backing Cassidy and demanding an outside investigation. So did Democratic candidate for governor J.B. Pritzker.