Michael Madigan’s political operation sued for alleged retaliation against sexual harassment accuser

Attorneys for Alaina Hampton, left, speak Wednesday, March 22, 2018, about a lawsuit filed the day before alleging that House Speaker Michael Madigan's organization covered up her sexual harassment complaint. Image courtesy of BlueRoomStream

CHICAGO (Illinois News Network) — A woman who filed a federal lawsuit against the Democratic Party of Illinois and House Speaker Michael Madigan’s political operations wants to find evidence of who knew of the alleged sexual harassment, when they knew about it, and how they handled it.

Former Madigan campaign worker Alaina Hampton filed the lawsuit in federal court Wednesday. She claims Kevin Quinn, a high-level Madigan political operative, made numerous unwanted sexual advances. After reporting it internally, Hampton’s attorney, Shelly Kulwin, said Hampton, who was successful enough to be a paid staffer, was then unwanted.

“So the notion that she would suddenly not be someone that they would have wanted to work on that campaign, immediately on the heels of her reporting this conduct, seems to us, in our view, to be strong circumstantial evidence,” Kulwin said Thursday at a news conference in Chicago.

Kulwin said he will seek additional evidence through the discovery process, including internal memos and text messages.

“Text message discovery, emails, and what did the defendants know and when did they know it,” Kulwin said. “That’s part of the case.”

The suit alleges that around August 2016, Quinn started the “severe and pervasive sexual harassment” with repeated calls, some late at night, dozens of text messages, including one telling Hampton she was “smoking hot.” The unwanted text messages continued on a regular basis despite Hampton repeatedly telling Quinn she wanted only a professional relationship, not a romantic or sexual one, according to the lawsuit and copies of text messages included in the court filing.

“U will not even permit me to buy you a beer,” Quinn asked via text at one point after being turned down several times.

“When you first asked, you phrased it in a way that pertained to work, I thought it was professional. I work closely with Marty often for political things, so I’m sure you can see why I would only want to have a professional relationship with you or anyone at the ward office,” Hampton responded in a text.

 “Why just a professional relationship?” Quinn asked.

“I won’t mix my professional life with my personal life,” Hampton said.

“Understood. If I were not involved with the ward would u grab a drink with me,” Quinn asked.

“I have always seen you in a supervisor role. I don’t see you in that way,” Hampton said.

In a later text exchange, Quinn wrote “I apologize. Not trying to big foot you . Just trying to do my job […] I apologize. Your a hotb beautiful smart women. Sorry for The interaction […] Here is the reality. I like you very much in so many 0ways. I think about you all the time. Please let me know you do not feel the same. Thanks[.]”

Hampton replied: “I need you to stop. I have dedicated a lot of time to this election cycle and I will continue to do so, but I need to be able to do my work without you contacting me like this. I’m not interested. I just want to do my work.”

In later texts, Quinn continued to ask to take Hampton out for a drink.

Madigan let Quinn go last month, the day after the Chicago Tribune interviewed Hampton for a story on her claims. Hampton said she personally told Madigan of Quinn’s behavior back in November in a letter.

“The pleading is being reviewed by counsel. However, I can assure you that the Democratic Party of Illinois and the Friends of MJM have not retaliated against Ms. Hampton in any way,” Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said in a statement after today’s news conference.

Madigan’s attorney said last month there was an internal investigation. Kulwin said he wants proof.

“Let’s see it,” Kulwin said. “What was this internal investigation that led you to conclude that everything was OK or not OK? What was your response to the investigation? Who participated in this investigation? Who was interviewed in this investigation? Because to our knowledge the investigation was a 40-minute chat in a Starbucks.”

While it’s not part of the lawsuit yet, Kulwin said the legal team is aware of people trying to dig up dirt on Hampton.

“There were questions raised about phone calls being made trying to dig up dirt on Alaina,” Kulwin said. “They were calling her male colleagues and asking what type of bars she goes to, who does she know, who does she have a relationship with. Outrageous stuff.”

The attorney said he plans to investigate those issues further.

“I can’t say it was directed by anybody yet,” Kulwin said. “I can’t say it was sponsored by anybody yet. We don’t know that at this time and I’m not saying that. We just know it happened and we know who did it, we believe, and we’re going to look into that during our case.”

While the Chicago Tribune said Hampton is seeking $350,000, Kulwin said that will be determined at a later date through the legal process.

“These type of lawsuits can help other women feel comfortable in coming forward,” Kulwin said. “And also hopefully will be instructive to employers not to engage in this conduct and to know how serious it is.”

Hampton said it’s been very difficult in dealing with the aftermath of her accusations being made public, but she is seeing some positive movement of more people coming out to tell their stories of sexual harassment.

“I have people reach out to me just as a support system because they have stories similar to mine,” Hampton said, “and I’m happy to be that person to listen to people who have a story to tell.”