WAS THE HOUSE SPEAKER LISTENING?
WOMAN WHO CAME FORWARD WITH SEX HARASSMENT ALLEGATION ASKS WHY MADIGAN TOOK MONTHS TO FIRE AIDE
A political consultant said she knew she’d be risking “everything” by coming forward with allegations of sexual harassment against a top political aide to powerful state House Speaker Mike Madigan.
And while the speaker’s attorney on Tuesday defended a threemonth investigation that led to the firing of Kevin Quinn, the accusations from the former campaign worker are exposing a loophole in the way sexual harassment claims are treated within political campaigns and operations versus among government employees.
The consultant, Alaina Hampton, first told Ald. Marty Quinn that his brother was harassing her a year ago, calling a discussion with her political mentor about his brother’s behavior “the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.”
But she said she was unhappy with the handling of the matter — even after she had left Madigan’s political organization — deciding to handwrite a letter to the speaker and mail it to his Southwest Side home to ensure he saw it.
Some 100 days later, Madigan on Monday announced Kevin Quinn’s firing after Heather Wier Vaught — a private attorney who previously served as his chief legal counsel— conducted an investigation that included interviews and a review of text messages Kevin Quinn sent to Hampton.
Madigan didn’t name Hampton as the accuser on Monday but hailed her as a “courageous woman.”
But on Tuesday, Hampton had no praise for Madigan, suggesting that he was asleep at the switch.
“The speaker has had the letter for three months. It doesn’t take three months to read those text messages and know that that behavior was inappropriate. It would take all of 20 minutes to know that that was sexual harassment,” Hampton said.
The allegations sparked a barrage of complaints from Democratic gubernatorial candidates and from Republican candidate state Rep. Jeanne Ives. But J. B. Pritzker chose his words carefully, praising Hampton for “unimaginable courage” — with nary a mention of the speaker.
Businessman Chris Kennedy, and Ives, both called for Madigan to step down, albeit Kennedy’s request was for him to “temporarily” step down as head of the party until a thorough investigation could be conducted.
Gubernatorial candidate state Sen. Daniel Biss, D- Evanston, also criticized the timing of the firing.
Speaking with reporters in Springfield on Tuesday, Madigan categorically denied that the firing was announced Monday because Hampton had spoken to the Chicago Tribune: “I deny that,” Madigan said.
As for calls for him to resign as the head of the party, the speaker said he’s not going anywhere — saying he will remain a “strong force against the [ Gov. Bruce] Rauner radical right agenda.”
At an earlier Chicago news conference, Hampton said she had never wanted to go public.
“I asked him to stop seven times. It never stopped,” she said of Kevin Quinn’s repeated text messages. “I feared not responding to my supervisor because I didn’t want him to tell the speaker or Ald. Quinn that I was not cooperating with my work. My first instinct was not to complain about him. It was my last option.”
Hampton, Ald. Quinn said in a statement, had “asked for my discretion, and indicated she did not want others to know about the situation, and that Kevin not be further reprimanded. I told her I would make sure he never contacted her again.”
Ald. Quinn, too, said he didn’t tell the speaker because he was “attempting to protect” her privacy and honor her wishes: “I thought I took swift action and handled the matter as she requested,” he said in the statement.
A spokeswoman for Hampton questioned the timing of Kevin Quinn’s dismissal, coming a day after she spoke with the Chicago Tribune.
But Wier Vaught on Tuesday said she had no knowledge that Hampton had spoken to the media. She said Kevin Quinn left both his political and state positions last week.
“Questions started swirling as to where is Kevin Quinn, and we wanted to make it clear to people that this type of behavior wouldn’t
be tolerated,” she said.
Wier Vaught said the investigation required a “thoughtful and fair review,” saying she was confident that itwas an isolated incident and Kevin Quinn wasn’t sending inappropriate texts to other women.
Wier Vaught said Madigan received the letter at his home betweenNov. 6 andNov. 8. She spoke to Hampton for the first time in an hourlong phone conversation on Nov. 13. She met with her on the 15th, and the two shared four conversations in total.
Wier Vaught said her investigation concluded in mid- January and that “termination isn’t something you can do quickly.”
Hampton said: “I don’t have . . . protections as a political worker. I don’t work for the government. I only work on campaigns.” Email: tsfondeles@ suntimes. com Twitter: @ TinaSfon
MORE AT SUNTIMES. COM Read more texts and listen to Alaina Hampton outline her complaints against Kevin Quinn.