Executive Order on Sexual Harassment in Illinois Government Makes Timely Investigations a Priority

 [Long-time Madigan aide Kevin Quinn/Chicago Police Department]

[Long-time Madigan aide Kevin Quinn/Chicago Police Department]

 

We’ve watched the #MeToo movement sweep across the country, revealing cases of sexual misconduct that had been ignored, covered up or litigated away — including in Illinois.

But a new Executive Order signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner seeks to finally end the dangerous status quo that has flourished in state government, particularly in dealing with alleged misconduct investigations.

“Every man and woman... in our state is unified in the expectation that we will act on our complete intolerance of, and utter revulsion for, sexual harassment,” Rauner said during his State of the State address in January. “It is protection all must have… and we must give.”

The new order creates a new Chief Compliance Office and hires a Chief Compliance Officer within the governor’s office “to foster a culture of ethics and compliance within State Agencies” through clear policies, procedures, and training to detect and address allegations of misconduct. The Chief Compliance Officer will also work with new ethics and diversity officers to provide state agencies and employees with the guidance they need to comply with the laws.

In addition, Rauner’s order also stipulates that initial reviews of investigations into alleged misconduct must be completed within 10 days to ensure timely resolutions. If the situation warrants further investigation, the inquiry will continue, according to the order.

These are powerful protections that the legislature should emulate.
— Gov. Bruce Rauner
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This legislation will help prevent the harassment of young women in state politics, such as Alaina Hampton, who earlier this year went public with her story of being repeatedly harassed by Kevin Quinn, a long-time aide of House Speaker Mike Madigan and the brother of 13th Ward Alderman Marty Quinn, who shares the district with Madigan.

She sought help from Ald. Quinn and Madigan in November, but it took a three-month investigation for them to fire Quinn.

The harassing texts present an obvious case of sexual harassment that would require immediate termination. However, it wasn’t until one day before the Chicago Tribune would run its story on Hampton that Madigan’s office took action against Quinn.

Hampton’s lawyers have also accused another Madigan ally of seeking “dirt” on her, and alleging it was the Speaker who put him up to it.

In the best-case scenario, it was a sloppy mishandling of serious sexual harassment allegations. At worst, it’s a full-blown attempted cover-up of the accusations, and the seeds of a smear campaign.

Though the harassment started in August of 2016, Madigan learned of the situation just weeks after the New York Times published explosive allegations of sexual misconduct, cover-ups, and intimidation tactics employed by now-disgraced Harvey Weinstein. No one serving in Illinois government should have to endure harassment, particularly not from another state employee in an abusive power dynamic.

Rauner’s order would prevent these circumstances. By ensuring investigations into allegations are handled promptly and professionally, situations like Hampton’s can be avoided.

Going forward, the order also requires training on the most effective ways to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct. The training would be repeated every two years.

“When the #MeToo movement struck Springfield last fall, the outcry for ethical reform turned into legislation in a Hollywood minute,” Rauner said. “Unfortunately, many believe that transparency and accountability were sacrificed for optics and speed. So, today, I ... sign an executive order to strengthen the policies that ensure all government employees under my office’s jurisdiction have reliable and responsive outlets for reporting acts of sexual misconduct.”

 
 
 
Jennifer Maine