State

Madigan fires political worker over inappropriate advances

Published:
House Speaker Michael Madigan

House Speaker Michael Madigan announced on Monday he has cut loose a veteran of his political organization over “unwanted advances and inappropriate text messages” to a female campaign worker.

Kevin Quinn, the younger brother of 13th Ward Ald. Marty Quinn, will no longer be working with Madigan’s political organization or his office as speaker, Madigan said.

The speaker received a letter from the woman in November and assigned Heather Wier Vaught, who formerly served as his chief legal counsel as speaker but now works as a private attorney, to investigate the allegations raised in the letter, according to Wier Vaught.

Wier Vaught, who also works part time as a special counsel to the speaker, said she just recently completed the investigation. She said her investigation included speaking to the woman and several people she indicated had knowledge of or had discussed the matter, as well as Quinn.

Wier Vaught would not identify the woman but said she worked as a consultant for various political committees in 2015 and 2016.

“In November,” the speaker said in a statement, “a courageous woman made me aware that a high-ranking individual within my political operation had previously made unwanted advances and sent her inappropriate text messages.

“Ms. Wier Vaught conducted numerous interviews, reviewed the evidence and recently came to the conclusion that the individual engaged in inappropriate conduct and failed to exercise the professional judgment I expect of those affiliated with my political organizations and the office of the speaker,” the statement said.

“As a result, long-time aide Kevin Quinn is no longer an employee of any of my political committees,” Madigan continued. “Mr. Quinn has worked with my political offices for nearly 20 years.”

The statement said Quinn also recently pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct. Wier Vaught said the charge stemmed from a dispute with his estranged wife amid divorce proceedings.

Since 1999, Quinn has been paid more than $513,000 for political work and related expenses, according to Illinois State Board of Elections records.

The bulk of that money – nearly $404,000 – came from the Friends of Michael J. Madigan campaign committee. Quinn also was paid nearly $77,000 from the Democratic Party of Illinois fund, where the speaker is chairman.

Most of the rest was paid out by the Democratic Majority, a Madigan committee to elect Democratic House members. Quinn also received a $3,500 payment in 2015, the year of the last City Council elections, from Friends of Mike Zalewski, the campaign committee for the 23rd Ward alderman.

Quinn was on leave from a state job in Madigan’s district office to work for Friends of Michael J. Madigan, said Madigan spokesman Steve Brown. Madigan’s statement said Quinn would not be returning as an employee.

Madigan also said his political committees are taking steps to implement recommendations from Wier Vaught that are intended to prevent inappropriate behavior as well as to improve methods of reporting and responding to such allegations.

Wier Vaught said one of the changes is to ensure employees, contractors and volunteers know to whom they can report claims.

The latest sexual harassment allegation is the second to emerge in Illinois politics since October, when an open letter signed by more than 200 people from the Illinois political scene went public.

The letter was inspired by the #MeToo social media campaign in response to widespread allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. It called for “challenging every elected official, every candidate, and every participant in our democratic process who is culpable” for a culture of sexual harassment.

Soon after the letter went public, Madigan proposed a measure that would boost requirements for training for government. At a hearing on that bill, Lake County victims’ rights advocate Denise Rotheimer emerged from the audience and told lawmakers that Democratic state Sen. Ira Silverstein of Chicago had made unwanted comments about her appearance, sent her hundreds of Facebook messages and placed midnight phone calls as the two worked to pass a bill.

In November, lawmakers approved several bills aimed at curbing sexual harassment in Illinois politics amid warnings that the rushed effort alone isn’t enough to correct a decadeslong culture of unethical behavior toward women at the Capitol. Legislative leaders also appointed a legislative inspector general, a post that had been vacant for 3 years as ethics complaints piled up.

Former federal prosecutor Julie Porter took the job in early November. Late last month, she determined that Silverstein did not engage in sexual harassment, but “did behave in a manner unbecoming of a legislator.” More cases are under review.

Chicago Tribune reporter Monique Garcia contributed from Springfield.

rlong@chicagotribune.com

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