Democrats need to find a new leader for the Illinois House of Representatives and the Democratic Party of Illinois if they want to change the culture of bullying and harassment in Springfield.
A report from former Illinois Inspector General Maggie Hickey this week pins the blame for problems in House Speaker’s Michael Madigan’s office on his longtime chief of staff, Tim Mapes.
The report goes easy on Madigan, the man who employed Mapes in both his political and legislative offices for decades. Employees told investigators that Mapes was an efficient leader who cultivated a culture of fear.
Mapes’ “had a reputation for denigrating workers and threatening their jobs,” the report said.
Mapes had served as Madigan’s chief of staff since 1992, Clerk of the House since 2011 and executive director of the Democratic Party of Illinois since 1998.
In other words, he was a very powerful man and very close to Madigan. That underscores how much courage it took for Sherri Garrett, an employee inside Madigan’s office, to stand before a crowd of reporters last year to detail the years of harassment she endured.
Mapes resigned in June 2018 after Garrett’s news conference in Springfield. On Tuesday, after Madigan’s office released the report, Mapes issued his own statement.
“I have always placed the needs of good government above all other concerns, and I always did my best to ensure that these needs were addressed with a sense of urgency,” Mapes said. “If my demeanor or approach to my job did not instill trust and a healthy work environment, I apologize. I truly did my best, no matter the shortcomings that are now ascribed to me, and I always acted in good faith and for the benefit of the people of the state of Illinois.”
Mark that down as one of the worst nonapologies of all time.
But don’t ignore the similarities between Mapes and his boss. Mapes had a position of authority that was virtually unchecked. Or checked only by Madigan.
“I take responsibility for not doing enough previously to prevent issues in my office,” Madigan said in a statement released along with the report. “I am ready to work with the other legislative caucus to ensure that everyone has a safe workplace.”
After detailing Mapes’ positions of power, the report said: “For this reason, workers were concerned that Mr. Mapes had discretion to affect their positions, opportunities, and benefits.”
That’s precisely why Democrats need to relieve Mapes’ longtime boss from at least one — preferably both — of his positions of power. Madigan should never have been allowed to serve as both House Speaker and chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois at the same time.
Outside of Madigan’s state government operations, and separate from Hickey’s report, there have been similar allegations of harassment, intimidation and retaliation in his political operations.
Alaina Hampton was a staffer for Democratic political campaigns under Madigan. She filed a lawsuit against Madigan and his political operations last year alleging she was retaliated against after she reported that a supervisor was harassing her. Her lawsuit remains pending.
“It was ingrained in my mind from day one that I was dispensable, and I feared saying no to any task I was asked to do whether I was being paid or not — and I never worked with Tim Mapes,” Hampton wrote on Twitter after the report was published.
The fact that Madigan continues to control what legislation moves through the House while keeping both hands on the party’s political war chest shows that some people haven’t learned the lesson yet.