The woman who accused a high-ranking political aide to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan of sexual harassment came forward Tuesday to share her side of the story, refuting the powerful Democrat's account of his organization's investigation into the matter.
Alaina Hampton spoke at a news conference in Chicago Tuesday morning, detailing the allegations she made against Kevin Quinn, the political operative who Madigan announced Monday had been terminated amid the growing scandal.
Hampton, a 28-year-old political consultant who worked for Madigan's organization intermittently beginning in 2012, gave an emotional testimony calling into question the timeline the speaker gave in his statement on the events that transpired.
"My first instinct was not to complain about him. It was my last option," Hampton said. But "after living in fear for so many months and experiencing crippling anxiety with every text and phone call," Hampton said she knew she had to speak out.
Hampton said her supervisor Kevin Quinn harassed her for five months beginning in fall 2016, making multiple unsolicited advances and sending inappropriate text messages at all hours, even after being told repeatedly that the relationship was strictly professional.
She accused the speaker and his associates of attempting to sweep her complaint under the rug, leading her on until the statute of limitations on her case expired, and refusing to hire her for a political campaign in retaliation for coming forward.
Kevin Quinn, who worked for the speaker for nearly 20 years, is the brother of 13th Ward Ald. Marty Quinn - perhaps Madigan's most senior operative and a figure that Hampton called her "mentor."
Hampton said she reported Kevin Quinn's inappropriate behavior to his supervisor, Ald. Marty Quinn, in February 2017 - claiming he was aware of the misconduct allegations far earlier than Madigan's Monday statement seemed to suggest.
"By the time I told Marty about the harassment, I was so terrified to be at the ward office that I decided to leave, because I knew my perpetrator would not be fired and I would have to continue to see him," Hampton said.
Ald. Marty Quinn said in a statement ahead of the news conference Tuesday that during their February meeting, Hampton did not share the text messages with him but requested that Kevin Quinn "cease all communications with her."
"She also asked for my discretion, and indicated she did not want others to know about the situation, and that Kevin not be further reprimanded," Ald. Marty Quinn said, adding that he subsequently told his brother to stop communicating with Hampton, but declined to take further action in an attempt "to protect Ms. Hampton’s privacy and honor her wishes."
"I thought I took swift action and handled the matter as she requested," Ald. Marty Quinn said.
Hampton said that after leaving the organization, she wrote a letter to the speaker in November explaining her decision "in hopes that he would do the right thing."
"I need you to know the truth about why I left the 13th Ward," her letter began, before she detailed her account of the harassment, sharing that she was scared of what would happen if she did not respond to Kevin Quinn, and informing Madigan that telling Ald. Marty Quinn about the situation was "the hardest thing I ever did in my life."
Though he did not personally respond to the letter, Hampton said Madigan's attorney called to set up a meeting to discuss the allegations.
"In November, 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," Madigan's statement on Monday said.
'I immediately consulted with my attorney, Heather Wier Vaught, and directed her to conduct a thorough investigation," Madigan continued. "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."
Kevin Quinn was terminated from his roles in both Madigan's Southwest Side constituent service office - shared with Ald. Marty Quinn - and in the speaker's campaign organization, he said.
But Hampton disputed the claim that the investigation was thorough, saying she met with Wier Vaught once for an hour in a coffee shop - a location Hampton alleged Wier Vaught told her she would not have chosen "if the situation was more serious."
"She jokingly told me that if I came to ask her for $25,000 and a front-page story on the Chicago Tribune, that she would bring the text messages to a reporter at the Tribune herself," Hampton said. The Tribune published Hampton's account, along with several pages of the text messages in question, on Monday night.
As the statute of limitations on sexual harassment in her case has expired, according to Hampton's attorney, she filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Monday, alleging that she was discriminated against when she was denied the opportunity to work on a state legislative campaign.
"I do not want my job with the Democratic Party back," Hampton said. "Accepting that they weren't going to protect me and that I was going to lose everything I worked for because a man could not control himself was devastating."
"I never wanted to do this," she continued. "But I know that my silence only protects the perpetrator and the organization which will allow this situation to happen to someone else."
The allegations and ensuing controversy sparked a firestorm of responses from elected officials, including several of the Democratic candidates running for Illinois governor.
"Alaina Hampton has given voice to the blatant, suffocating harassment that so many women experience," Chris Kennedy said in a statement.
"The allegations she made today are very serious and must be fully investigated by the appropriate authorities," he continued. "This harassment she experienced prevented her from working freely and achieving equality, and the fact that people in positions of power allegedly knew about it and only took action when contacted by reporters is exactly what is wrong with the power structure in Illinois.
Kennedy called on Madigan to "temporarily step down" as chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois, adding that if an investigation finds he knew about the allegations and "chose to protect his machine political allies... he no longer can lead our party."
State Sen. Daniel Biss echoed that call for an investigation, saying in a statement that we need to "get to the bottom of this story immediately."
"It’s clear there was inappropriate, unwanted, and unrelenting contact from Kevin Quinn," Biss said. "What isn’t clear is why it took until the day after a Chicago Tribune reporter started asking questions, for Speaker Madigan to make a public statement and terminate that staffer."
J.B. Pritzker commended Hampton's "unimaginable courage" and also called for "a thorough investigation and ensuring that there are systems in place to protect all women."
Pritzker's running mate Juliana Stratton - whose previous campaign for state representative was managed by Hampton - said she was "proud" of Hampton for speaking "on behalf of women who have come before her, women who are not able to come forward, and our daughters who should grow up in a society free from harassment and retaliation."