A former top aide to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan broke his silence Wednesday about sexual harassment allegations against him, echoing a legal defense already laid by the speaker’s camp and attacking the political worker who made the charges.
Ex-Madigan lieutenant Kevin Quinn, who was fired in February as Democratic foot soldier Alaina Hampton was about to go public, downplayed suggestions that the speaker’s political army retaliated against her after she complained about unwanted advances as well as aggressive text messages and phone calls from Quinn.
In a 14-page annotated statement he dubbed “The Truth,” Quinn acknowledged his behavior was inappropriate but said it did not rise to the legal level of workplace harassment.
Quinn also portrayed Hampton as an unreliable employee who was on bad terms with the speaker’s political organization after twice leaving jobs connected to Madigan. The final straw, Quinn said, was when Hampton went to work on Marie Newman’s congressional campaign last year even though Madigan backed U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski.
“Alaina wanted to be a member of the Organization on her own terms. She was never retaliated against in any way,” Quinn wrote. “She was treated the same as any other volunteer would have been treated that quit both speaker’s government staff in 2014 and the 13th Ward Democratic Organization in 2016 by not being welcomed back for additional political assignments.”
Hampton is suing the state Democratic Party and three Madigan-controlled campaign funds. She maintains she attempted to work for a House Democratic campaign this year but was rebuffed, a move that she said stymied her career.
On Wednesday, Hampton deferred comment to her lawyer, who was in court for a routine hearing on the lawsuit. Attorney Shelly Kulwin said he couldn’t respond in detail because there is information his side doesn’t have, such as possible communications with Madigan.
“What was happening that we haven’t seen yet?” Kulwin said. “I’ll respond to ‘the truth’ once I know.”
Quinn’s statement, however, drew sharp criticism from Democratic Rep. Kelly Cassidy of Chicago, who has been a vocal critic of Madigan’s handling of sexual harassment allegations. She said Quinn’s memo could deter other women from coming forward with sexual harassment complaints.
“This is just another offensive tactic from the old playbook that aims to discredit and undermine women who come forward,” Cassidy said. “Women considering speaking out should not let Mr. Quinn’s despicable behavior deter them.”
Quinn’s statement — in which he often refers to himself in the third person — includes several partial transcripts of news conference quotes involving Hampton, a timeline and an appendix. Much of the document is devoted to absolving Madigan and Quinn’s brother, 13th Ward Ald. Marty Quinn.
Kevin Quinn, who has been unemployed since February, told the Tribune on Wednesday that he spent “a long time” working on the statement and did not share it with Madigan’s camp before sending it to reporters. Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said that “to our knowledge, no one within the speaker’s government or political offices had any involvement with Kevin Quinn in preparing this document.”
The former political worker’s memo put the sexual harassment story back in the spotlight a week after Madigan ousted his longtime chief of staff following sexual harassment and bullying allegations from a House staff member against the speaker’s top aide.
Tim Mapes’ departure marked the fourth time in four months that Madigan quickly distanced himself from a key operative after public allegations of improper behavior. As the #MeToo movement continues to have repercussions at the Illinois Capitol, some Democratic women lawmakers have suggested that Madigan has failed to act aggressively enough to address complaints of harassment lodged against the well-connected men within his political organization.
Earlier this week, Madigan announced that he would hire a human resources director as well as an equal employment opportunity and affirmative action officer for the House Democrats.
On Feb. 12, as Hampton prepared to take legal action, Madigan issued a news release stating that Kevin Quinn had been forced out of the political organization, calling Hampton “courageous” and acknowledging Quinn’s inappropriate behavior. The release also came less than 24 hours after Hampton met with a Tribune reporter and provided explicit texts that Quinn sent her, including one in which he referenced a Facebook picture of Hampton in a bikini and called her “smoking hot.”
Hampton repeatedly discouraged the overtures, saying she wanted to keep the relationship professional. Both sides agree the unwanted contact stopped after Ald. Quinn reprimanded his brother.
Quinn attempted to dissect several of those text messages in his statement, using select phrases from them to prove he wasn’t Hampton’s supervisor — a key defense offered by Madigan’s attorneys in the wake of the scandal. Hampton’s direct supervisor was Ald. Quinn, the memo contends.
“I was never Ms. Hampton’s supervisor and never had any control over her assignments. My role was to simply facilitate communication between Alderman Marty Quinn, managers of targeted campaigns, and volunteers of the 13th Ward Democratic Organization,” he said.
In a political and state organization that relies on a tangled web of people who shift from one campaign payroll to the next and pick up a few state paychecks in between, the lines of authority can get blurred. The Hampton case illustrates how overlap between Madigan’s state and political operations adds to the confusion.
In the months during Quinn’s inappropriate text messaging, Hampton primarily worked on three House races. Kevin Quinn said he had no control over Hampton when she worked on campaigns of rank-and-file lawmakers, though he did tell her in one text message that she deserved the merit bonus she received.
He also estimated that he saw her in the ward office four times during the fall 2016 campaign, backing assertions by Madigan lawyers that Hampton did not suffer a hostile work environment because she technically wasn’t based there.
In his memo, Quinn said he believes he lost his job in large part because he pleaded guilty in January to disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor offense stemming from an argument with his estranged wife in July. Last week, a judge convicted Quinn of violating an order of protection that restricts his communication with her.
Chicago Tribune’s Gregory Pratt contributed.
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