SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — A bombshell report from WBEZ rocked state politics Wednesday after an email from a former lobbyist hinted at a rape cover-up.
Powerful Springfield lobbyist, and close friend of House Speaker Madigan, Michael McClain urged aides to then-Gov. Pat Quinn to avoid firing a worker who had “kept his mouth shut” about a rape in Champaign. Details about the downstate incident were not provided.
According to WBEZ, the email sent by McClain read in part, “This man is a good compliance person, as I told you. The AG’s office and the Sheriffs love working with him. He has kept his mouth shut on Jones’ ghost workers, the rape in Champaign and other items. He is loyal to the Administration.”
On Wednesday, Republicans and Democrats demanded an investigation. House Republican Leader Jim Durkin called the email “horrific.”
“I read this last night and it probably is one of the most disturbing and shocking set of facts I have experienced as a member of legislator,” he said.
The worker, according to the story, is Forrest Ashby, who left his government job in 2018 to work for the Pritzker campaign. WBEZ reports McClain recommended Ashby for the $5,000 per month consultant job. He currently collects a paycheck consulting the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board.
The e-mail reported by WBEZ mentions that Ashby “kept his mouth shut” about “ghost” workers.
“It is beyond breathtaking that Democrats rewarded a state employee for keeping his mouth shut on a ghost-payrolling issue which is a felony whether it’s in state courts or federal courts even worst, he kept his mouth shut about a Champaign rape. Where does that happen? What society allows that to happen?” Durkin said.
State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz said, “This e-mail sets off many alarm bells, and it’s hard to know where to begin. The rape, the ghost payrolling, or the forceful tone and veiled threat. An investigation should begin immediately.”
State Sen. Cristina Castro said, “If someone covers up crimes or unethical practices, they should be punished, not rewarded.”
Three of the women who’ve taken on the Springfield harassment culture, Rep. Kelly Cassidy, Alaina Hampton and Sherri Garrett issued the following statement:
“We call upon law enforcement leaders, including Champaign County State’s Attorney and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, if appropriate, to immediately open an investigation into these allegations, and, if necessary, to impanel a grand jury.”
House Speaker Madigan also weighed in.
“These are extremely serious and troubling allegations,” he said. “I had no knowledge of the incident referenced in the story and only learned of this today. I encourage those with any information to come forward. ”
Gov. JB Pritzker’s office said the administration’s general counsel referred the email to appropriate investigatory authority.