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This editorial appears in the Feb. 15, 2018, edition of the Decatur Herald & Review:

How political powerbrokers in our state treated Alaina Hampton requires an independent investigation.

Hampton, 28, an Illinois Democrats campaign worker, in February 2017 reported to her superior that she was being sexually harassed by a male supervisor, political consultant Kevin Quinn, the Chicago Tribune reported. Yet in an Illinois political twist, Hampton had to go to Quinn’s supervisor, who just happened to be his brother, Chicago Alderman Marty Quinn.

By that time, Hampton had been getting text messages for months, some calling her "smoking hot" and "beautiful,” according to texts provided to the Tribune. There are 75 messages in total, ranging from cringe-worthy to downright creepy.

"I need you to stop," Hampton responded in one case. "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."

Hampton, who had been working in Democratic politics starting in 2012, ended up mailing a letter to the home of House Speaker Michael Madigan, the head of the Democratic Party since the late 1980s, in November. He opened an investigation but, in another Illinois political twist, appointed his own in-house attorney to ask questions.

Then came Monday, when Hampton filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the same day Madigan dismissed Kevin Quinn.

By Tuesday, Madigan – the longest-serving state House speaker in American history, and possibly the most unpopular one – was hit with calls to step down. Yet in talking with reporters, he denied that Kevin Quinn wouldn’t have been fired had Hampton not spoke out and shrugged off calls he should leave. Not a chance, he said.

This is bad time for Madigan to come under fire, as his party is navigating the final stretch to a primary Election Day. Long the most powerful lawmaker in the state, Madigan is a machine politics kingpin, able to command tremendous respect from the very lawmakers who subsequently question whether he has too much clout. He also has the ability to draw criticism, in varying shades, from every gubernatorial candidate. While there is plenty of blame to go around for dysfunction in Springfield, Madigan easily gets the biggest slice.

He also has tremendous influence on Chicago politics. Marty Quinn, in fact, represents the southwest side of the city, which Madigan represents in the House, and is known as a key political strategist for the Democratic Machine.

Hampton in a press conference said she came forward because “I know that my silence only protects the perpetrator and the organization.” That speaks to a bigger issue.

Madigan’s lawyer, in a tone-deaf move, said the investigation was taking so long because it sought to be “fair and balanced.”

That’s a feeble excuse because Madigan should have appointed an independent investigator to look into these allegations. Having an impartial voice offer an impartial opinion would have been the responsible course of action. Now that really would have been an Illinois political twist.

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