Speaker Michael Madigan ousted his longtime chief of staff on Wednesday after a House staff member accused the top aide of sexual harassment over several years and fostering “a culture of sexism, harassment and bullying that creates an extremely difficult working environment.”
The departure of Tim Mapes marks the fourth time in four months that Madigan has quickly distanced himself from a key operative following public allegations of improper behavior. Mapes also is the highest-ranking official to leave Madigan’s vaunted political and governmental organization as the #MeToo movement continues to rock the Illinois Capitol.
In addition to his chief of staff duties, Mapes served as clerk of the House, running the chamber’s day-to-day operations and enforcing the speaker’s rules and agenda. Leveling the allegations was Sherri Garrett, who grew up around Springfield politics and was responsible for taking the speaker’s gavel to and from the House floor.
Garrett also worked in close proximity to Mapes as she assisted with the daily legislative process as a minutes clerk making $42,000 a year. Less than a week after the spring session ended, the 53-year-old central Illinois resident was in Chicago holding a news conference where she said she’d “personally witnessed bullying and repeated harassment that was often sexual and sexist in nature … at the highest levels in the statehouse.”
Garrett offered several examples that ranged from comments Mapes had made about her marriage and undergarments to his brushing off a sexual harassment complaint as a matter of jealousy.
Three hours later, Madigan announced he had directed Mapes, 63, to resign his positions with the General Assembly, which earn him an annual salary of $208,000. Mapes also was forced out as executive director of the Democratic Party of Illinois and roles in the speaker’s campaign funds, which records show had paid him $132,000 since 1999. Mapes could not be reached for comment.
Later, Garrett said in a statement she was “relieved” by Mapes’ resignation, calling it “an important symbolic and substantive change,” but warning that “the conditions that led to my harassment and the mistreatment of so many others have not changed.”
That comment echoes the narrative that Madigan has failed to act aggressively enough to address complaints of harassment lodged against the well-connected men within his political organization, one that could hurt Democrats as they look ahead to the November election and attempt to reclaim the governor’s office.
Democratic nominee J.B. Pritzker quickly called for Mapes’ immediate suspension, while Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office pledged to “act swiftly to ensure an independent process is in place to investigate future allegations and the culture Speaker Madigan has created.” Frustration within Democratic ranks also was apparent in the location of Garrett’s announcement — a downtown conference room provided by a family charity affiliated with Democratic state Sen. Heather Steans of Chicago.
Madigan said he had been unaware of Garrett’s complaints against Mapes. The speaker said he planned to appoint “an individual with extensive experience conducting investigations” to look into the operations of the House, including the clerk’s office. Rank-and-file lawmakers, however, have been critical of Madigan’s tendency to respond to sexual harassment complaints by appointing his own person to take them on, questioning a lack of independence.
Garrett said she had not complained directly to the speaker because getting to him would require going through Mapes. One longtime political operative recalled Wednesday that Mapes had a sign on the wall of his statehouse office referencing a line from the “Wizard of Oz”: “Nobody gets in to see the wizard. Not nobody, not no how.”
The diminutive Mapes played an outsized role in controlling the flow of legislation on the House floor as he stood at the side of Madigan and top Democratic leaders when they presided over the ornate chamber from the speaker’s podium. Mapes accumulated power over the years as other key Madigan confidantes left state government and lawmakers and staff privately grumbled of Mapes’ condescending and abrasive style.
Garrett’s complaints date back to spring 2013, when she says then-Democratic Rep. Ken Dunkin of Chicago approached her and another staffer on the House floor and said, “I want to take both of you home and see which of you will be the naughtiest.”
Garrett said she reported the incident, but later learned that Mapes’ response “was that it would blow over.”
“He had to be forced to address the situation by a staff member,” said Garrett, who added that “had it been left to (Mapes’) sole discretion, the entire incident would have been swept under the rug.”
Dunkin, who lost reelection in 2016 after he broke ranks with Democrats and sided with Rauner on key votes, did not respond to requests for comment. Rauner recently appointed Dunkin to the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, but on Wednesday the governor’s office called for Dunkin to resign.
Madigan said in his statement Wednesday that his office was aware of the comments made by Dunkin “and took action to handle the matter.” He said the incident was included on a list of nine complaints his office disclosed earlier this year.
Garrett also described a second incident in December 2014 that she said took place as she and colleagues planned inauguration festivities. Mapes said “completely out of nowhere that I needed to make sure that I was not showing my pink bra to the judge during the inauguration because he knows how girls who work on the second floor like to leave little to the imagination,” Garrett said.
Garrett felt the comment was directed at her and her colleagues, who work on the second floor of the Stratton Office Building at the Capitol complex. “I was stunned and uncomfortable,” she said.
In September 2015, Garrett said, a colleague complained of being sexually harassed by a member of the House Democratic caucus. When Garrett raised the issue with Mapes, she said that Mapes responded, “Are you reporting this situation because you are upset the representative isn’t paying attention to you?”
Garrett said she and another person who heard the comment were “totally taken aback,” and that she told Mapes it was his responsibility to look into the issue. She said Mapes “walked off.”
Garrett’s more recent complaints center around what she said was Mapes making light of efforts to raise awareness about sexual harassment.
In late January, lawmakers wore black to the governor’s State of the State address in honor of the #TimesUp movement to provide legal help to victims of sexual harassment. Garrett said Mapes wore navy blue and explained that he did so “because there’s not a woman on the House floor that would want me to tell them what to wear.” Garrett said she believes Mapes was trying to “thumb his nose” at the movement.
On an April day when lawmakers took sexual harassment training, Garrett says she overhead Mapes jokingly asking a colleague if they were “going to sex training.”
And a few weeks ago, Garrett said, Mapes started a conversation with her in which he made a joking comment about her “running around” on her husband. Garrett said a colleague who witnessed the exchange found it “very awkward and uncomfortable but not unusual.” Garrett noted that Mapes also stared at her “throughout the interaction,” and that it made her uncomfortable.
Garrett’s allegations follow a string of complaints from women about the behavior of men at the Capitol, particularly Democrats.
Last October, victim rights advocate Denise Rotheimer accused state Sen. Ira Silverstein of using her advocacy for a crime victim rights bill as an opening to pursue a personal relationship and produced hundreds of Facebook messages documenting their interactions. A newly appointed legislative inspector general concluded Silverstein had acted in a way that was unbecoming of a lawmaker, and he lost his re-election bid.
In February, the Chicago Tribune disclosed sexual harassment allegations from Alaina Hampton, who was working on Democratic House campaigns and had received aggressive and inappropriate text messages from Kevin Quinn, a top aide in Madigan’s political organization. Madigan then ousted Quinn, the brother of Ald. Marty Quinn, the point man in the speaker’s 13th Ward.
Shortly after Hampton came forward, a lawmaker and several staffers approached Madigan with complaints about abusive behavior from longtime political operative and lobbyist Shaw Decremer. Madigan then parted ways with Decremer. The speaker also selected a law firm to look into Hampton’s complaints.
Last month, North Side Rep. Kelly Cassidy complained she felt targeted by Mapes after she was critical of how the speaker handled the sexual harassment complaints. Cassidy said Mapes called the Cook County sheriff’s office to inquire about a part-time job she held, which she viewed as a “warning.” On Wednesday, Cassidy praised Garrett for coming forward.
“I’ve mostly been telling her what a badass she was today. Just how strong,” said Cassidy, who indicated she texted with Garrett following Mapes’ ouster.
Last week, top Madigan deputy Rep. Lou Lang of Skokie resigned his leadership posts after a former medical marijuana advocate accused him of retaliation, verbal abuse and “inappropriate behavior.” Maryann Loncar said Lang had once touched her on her lower back and asked her if her husband knew "how lucky he is to have a wife like you.” Lang called the allegations "absurd" and said they were reflective of someone "that did not get what she wanted out of state government.”
At Wednesday’s news conference, Garrett said she was nervous to speak out, but did so because she was disappointed with how the speaker handled recent complaints from women. She said she wants legislative workers to have access to a third party not beholden to the speaker to field complaints about inappropriate behavior.
“I had hoped that (Madigan) would step forward because I’m loyal to him,” Garrett said. “This is very hard for me. But I just suffered one disappointment after another with how things are handled.”