Questions Raised Over Search for Democratic Party of Illinois’ Next Director

Sources said a longtime employee of both Speaker Michael Madigan and Attorney General Lisa Madigan was quietly hired amid a committee search

As Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan's organization reels from the resignation of his right-hand man Tim Mapes, new questions have been raised about the hiring process for the next director of the Democratic Party of Illinois, which Madigan controls.

Mapes, Madigan's most powerful aide, stepped down as the longtime speaker's chief of staff and director of DPI following allegations of sexual harassment and bullying last week.

While a search committee of 18 women was created to find the next executive director of DPI, sources said Mary Morrissey, a Madigan loyalist, was brought back into the organization this week with little fanfare.

Morrissey spent more than 15 years working for Madigan on both the government and campaign sides before moving to work for his daughter, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, for roughly eight years.

Morrissey left the attorney general's office Monday and was quietly hired at DPI, according to multiple sources, who raised questions about how much control a new committee-selected director would have over the party the speaker chairs.

After Mapes resigned, the third member of the speaker's staff to do so over harassment allegations in recent months, Speaker Madigan quickly announced that the search for the party's next executive director would be conducted by a committee of 18 Democratic State Central Committeewomen.

That committee is chaired by lieutenant governor candidate state Rep. Juliana Stratton, state Sen. Iris Martinez, and Cook County Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough among others.

“The members of this search committee share a commitment to the success of our Democratic Party, and also recognize the need for a better culture throughout Illinois government and politics,” Speaker Madigan said in a statement. “I know they will conduct a thorough search and select a candidate who reflects our commitment to a strong statewide party and a better future for all."

But a source who worked for both Michael Madigan and Lisa Madigan called the committee's efforts "an exercise in futility" after the hiring of Morrissey, who was the political director on Lisa Madigan's campaigns as well as her deputy chief of staff.

Another longtime Speaker Madigan operative and Springfield power player, attorney and lobbyist Mike Kasper took over for Mapes as treasurer of both the Democratic Majority and the Friends of Michael J. Madigan political committees.

Kasper was already the treasurer for the Democratic Party of Illinois and was instrumental in the February hiring of Speaker Madigan's independent counsel tasked with the internal investigation of his office's handling of misconduct allegations.

When it comes to the position of DPI's executive director, several women have expressed interest in the position, including state Rep. Litesa Wallace and Alaina Hampton, who was the first to come forward in February with claims of sexual harassment against another political aide to the speaker.

Morrissey did not respond to request for comment but Speaker Madigan’s spokesman Steve Brown said she is not the only employee of the attorney general’s office to transfer to DPI.

A spokeswoman for the attorney general refuted that claim, saying Morrissey was in fact the only person who left the office for DPI. Brown did not respond to request for clarification on his statement. 

Morrissey is “an experienced hand who came over to the party along with a few other staffers,” Brown said, indicating that she would likely become the organization’s chief operating officer once a new executive director is selected.

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