Three House Democratic Women Call for an Independent Investigation Into the Operations of the Illinois House

The following statement is released from Representatives Kelly Burke, Deb Conroy and Ann Williams:

STATEMENT released on  June 7, 2018

Yesterday, we heard from longtime statehouse employee Sherri Garrett about the inappropriate behavior she faced as an employee of the Illinois House – the latest in a series of allegations about harassment, retaliation and bullying behavior in and around Illinois government and politics.

The resignation of Speaker Madigan’s Chief of Staff Tim Mapes was the right decision in the wake of yesterday’s allegations, and we commend Ms. Garrett and all the others who shared their stories in an effort to bring positive change to our work environment. But the problem is much bigger than any one individual, regardless of what position they hold. Each allegation, each story shared publicly or privately, add up to one conclusion: the culture surrounding Illinois government and politics must change.

As members of the Illinois House Democratic Women’s Caucus, we recommend an independent investigation to review all operations of the House of Representatives, including the Office of the Speaker. We have a responsibility to ensure not only an impartial, fair and transparent process for the adjudication of complaints, but also to change the culture that has permitted inappropriate behavior to flourish.

Additionally, the House Democratic Women’s Caucus will launch a powerful new program, called “Representing Respect” – developed to create change and impact the workplace culture in a much different way than a typical harassment training.

  • This interactive program, which was developed by law firm Seyfarth Shaw and called “Seyfarth Shaw at Work,” is results- and data-driven. It has been utilized by many Fortune 500 companies to establish core values and educate team members as to how interpersonal interactions should reflect these values. (See link, below.)
  • The Illinois Legislature would be first in the country to adopt this sort of dynamic training, and the program will be tailored to reflect the realities of working in a non-traditional environment like the Capitol. We thank Asst. Majority Leader Sara Feigenholtz for leading the effort to facilitate the development of this program for our own Caucus and for spearheading efforts to move forward with this project, and Majority Leader Barbara Currie for her strong leadership of the Sexual Harassment Task Force.
  • Several House members have participated in an abbreviated version of the program, and we plan to pilot the complete program later this summer with our Democratic colleagues in the House and recommend it be provided to all staff in the fall.

We are committed to working to improve our workplace environment for all women – and men – who work in and around the Capitol in any capacity. We believe we can make a real difference and hope our colleagues in all other caucuses will consider participating.

-Representatives Kelly Burke, Deb Conroy and Ann Williams