What to Know
- Rep. Kelly Cassidy was the lead voice calling for an investigation into sexual harassment allegations in Madigan's political office
- She worked part-time as a program manager for the Cook County Sheriff’s Justice Initiative working on jail-related issues
- Cassidy said she believes she is facing retaliation for speaking out, and had no choice but to resign from her position
An Illinois lawmaker said Monday she was forced out of her job with the Cook County Sheriff's office, given no choice other than to resign from her part-time position after speaking publicly against powerful House Speaker Michael Madigan.
State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago's North Side, was the lead voice calling for an independent investigation after allegations of sexual harassment first surfaced within Madigan's political staff.
Cassidy was one of few state lawmakers to speak publicly, questioning the steps the longtime speaker took after a firestorm erupted when a former Madigan staffer, Alaina Hampton, alleged she had been sexually harassed by key Madigan operative Kevin Quinn.
Days after she publicly called for a review of harassment policies and past responses to complaints, Cassidy said she was told by Sheriff Tom Dart’s spokeswoman Cara Smith that Madigan's chief of staff Tim Mapes had called "to confirm that I was still employed," adding, "that call from Mapes felt like a warning, it was a little chilling."
Cassidy said she had also reached out to meet with Madigan about a cannabis bill currently under consideration but has not received a response - a deviation from the norm, she said, because traditionally when House members request a meeting with Madigan, "anyone who asks to speak to him gets in to speak to him."
But most recently, on Monday, Cassidy said her decision to speak out cost her her part-time job.
Cassidy was a program manager for the sheriff’s Justice Initiative for three years, working part-time on jail-related issues. She said before accepting the job, she received approval from the speaker’s attorney and has listed it on her ethics disclosures, estimating that she earned between $20,000 and $35,000 per year, depending on how much she worked.
This year in Springfield, Dart is advocating for a bill that would place inmates on the sex offender registry if they expose themselves or masturbate in front of female staffers two or more times, a measure to protect staff after 222 detainees were charged with indecent exposure in 2017.
Cassidy did not support the bill, as she said she does not believe a registry of sex offenders is a deterrent to crime.
Last week, Cassidy said state Rep. Bob Rita "summoned" her over to discuss Dart's bill and said, "I really just can’t get over the fact that you're opposed to your boss’ bill."
Rita, a south suburban Democrat and close Madigan ally, faced allegations of domestic battery more than a dozen years ago - claims that resurfaced in March during his contentious primary race. He easily won re-election.
That conversation with Rita led Cassidy to speak to Smith once again. Cassidy said Smith told her that Rita had reached out to tell her, "when I worked for a politician, when I opposed him, I expect to be fired."
"My blood ran cold at that," Cassidy said. "It was very, very clear at that point, the combination of the call in February and this action by Rep. Rita, that this job was their point of leverage to use against me."
Cassidy said she did not link Dart to the retaliation and chose to resign from her position.
"Rather than put him in the position of being dragged into this petty nonsense, I offered my resignation because I didn’t see any other way," Cassidy said.
"This is retribution, there is zero doubt in my mind," she added. "This is about me having the gall to speak out."
"The Sheriff’s office proposed legislation this session designed to strengthen our response to detainees who expose themselves and engage in sexual misconduct towards staff," Smith said in a statement.
"Rep. Kelly Cassidy, who worked part-time for our office and who co-chairs the committee the bill was assigned to, opposed the bill and the legislative solution our office was seeking to protect the over 1000 female staff that work in the Cook County jail," the statement continued. "Based on this philosophical difference, she submitted her resignation which we accepted."
When reached, Madigan's spokesman said it was the "first I have heard of this" and Rita did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Cassidy said she is speaking out about how she’s been treated to shine a "spotlight on it," adding it's the "only way it’s going to stop."