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STATEWISE: For Speaker Madigan, when do drips become a flood?

A fourth member of Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan’s inner circle is now the subject of allegations involving inappropriate behavior at the workplace.

In each case – all this year – the speaker’s office has “punished” the accused, paid lip service to the victim and promised to do better.

But how many more women must will themselves in front of a microphone before the speaker himself is held to account?

Madigan’s chief of staff, Tim Mapes, resigned Wednesday from his posts as Madigan’s chief of staff, the clerk of the House of Representatives and the executive director of the Democratic Party of Illinois. A longtime worker for the speaker’s office in Springfield, Sherri Garrett, alleged Mapes “has made repeated, inappropriate comments to me, and around me, both in the office and on the House floor.”

"They should be held to the highest standard," Garrett said. "Instead they behave like they're above reproach and the speaker's office is a locker room."

Among other claims regarding inappropriate comments, Garrett said that when she brought to Mapes’ attention a young woman who had been sexually harassed by a member of the House Democratic caucus, Mapes allegedly responded, “Are you reporting the situation because you are upset the representative isn’t paying attention to you?”

Madigan claimed Mapes resigned “at my direction.” His former chief of staff will almost certainly collect a six-figure pension in his first year of retirement, as he has clocked decades of service in the state’s pension system and took home a $200,000 salary from the state in 2017, according to the comptroller’s office.

“While Mr. Mapes’ resignation is an important symbolic and substantive change, however, the conditions that led to my harassment and the mistreatment of so many others have not changed,” Garrett said in a press release after Mapes stepped down.

Garrett is right on the money.

Indeed, her allegations came the same day Madigan’s legal team asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit brought by former campaign worker Alaina Hampton, who in February provided evidence of inappropriate and persistent text messages from state worker and Madigan political operative Kevin Quinn. Quinn’s brother, a Chicago alderman, shares his ward office with Madigan.

Days after Madigan parted ways with Quinn, he also severed ties with Democratic Party lieutenant Shaw Decremer, citing “inappropriate behavior by a volunteer toward a candidate and staff.”

And it’s not just Madigan staff members who are problematic, but one of his top allies in the General Assembly as well.

Illinois House Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang resigned from his leadership post May 31 amid sexual harassment allegations from a female medical marijuana advocate. Lang claimed the allegations were “absurd.”

Lang also stepped down from the Legislative Ethics Commission, which recently endured criticism after it came to light that the office of the legislative inspector general – responsible for investigating sexual harassment claims – went unfilled for three years.

Some female Democratic lawmakers stood with Lang at the press conference rebuking the allegations against him, including Sara Feigenholtz, Fran Hurley, Linda Chapa LaVia, Natalie Manley and Kathleen Willis.

In contrast, state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, who has been a vocal critic of the speaker’s handling of sexual harassment in the Statehouse, faced what she claims were intimidation tactics from Mapes regarding her part-time job in the Cook County sheriff’s office.

A few brave souls have come forward with their stories about the behavior under Madigan’s dome.

But how many still feel powerless?

Lawmakers passed House Bill 138 to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk June 5, the eve of Mapes’ resignation. The bill improves some of the shortcomings of the state’s severely limited legislative inspector general post, which has been filled, but the fact that a panel of lawmakers – the Legislative Ethics Commission – retains considerable sway over the General Assembly’s watchdog remains a cause for concern.

With improvements to oversight, will drips finally become a flood?

Some might say they have already.

AUSTIN BERG is a writer for the Illinois Policy Institute. He wrote this column for the Illinois News Network. Austin can be reached at aberg@illinoispolicy.org.

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