In the past two days, House Speaker Mike Madigan has sent a pair of letters to Democratic House members as he combats questions of sexual harassment against one of his top aides and how he has handled those allegations.
In a rare Saturday letter, Madigan announced a group of three women -- including Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, will lead a statewide discussion about the role of women in the Democratic Party and how to "change the culture of politics."
Madigan has also asked Comptroller Susana Mendoza and State Rep. Carol Ammons to join Bustos in that discussion.
The announcement comes at the end of a tumultuous week for the Speaker, starting with news Monday that Madigan had fired longtime aide Kevin Quinn after allegations of inappropriate conduct. Critics say that firing only happened because of a Chicago Tribune investigation involving Quinn, which was released just hours after the firing was announced.
On Thursday, NBC 5 first reported that the political consultant who accused Quinn had allegedly faced retaliation for her public disclosure. Madigan has denied playing any role in any such retaliation.
The next day, NBC 5 then reported first that Quinn’s estranged wife Sarah McKay says she had forwarded a letter of concern about Quinn’s verbal and physical abuse to Madigan’s Chief of Staff Tim Mapes via fax machine. Those allegations were included in court records, which she says were also referenced in the letter.
Madigan’s spokesman says that letter was not received, but McKay says she was told by her I.T. team that the fax went through on Aug. 4 and that when she called Madigan’s office, someone who answered the phone told her that it was on Mapes’ desk.
On Friday, Madigan announced in a separate letter to the Democratic State Central Committee how an independent counsel will help to better handle sexual harassment allegations in the legislature, but questions have arisen about how independent the counsel can be if Madigan is the person who did the hiring.