SPRINGFIELD – Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan asked Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons to release documents from an internal investigation of sexual harassment to former secretary Andrew Kane and the public.
On Oct. 16, Madigan’s deputy chief of public access found that Kane’s personal interest and the public interest both required disclosure.
The AG’s office rejected an argument that disclosure would invade the privacy of the person who complained, the subject of the complaint - former administrator Kevin Hendricks - and witnesses.
It found a legitimate public interest in how allegations were investigated and managed by the state’s attorney’s office outweighed privacy interests.
When the Hendricks report is disclosed, Gibbons can redact names of the complainant and witnesses, the AG ruling indicates.
It further states that minimal redactions of salacious content can be made, as details weren’t particularly graphic.
A plea of privacy for Hendricks was rejected.
“Because the investigatory information bears on his public duties, the disclosure of that information would not constitute an unwarranted invasion of his personal privacy,” wrote public access counselor Joshua Jones.
Kane requested the record of the investigation in February, seeking evidence for a suit he filed in U.S. district court against Gibbons’s office and the county.
The suit alleges that Hendricks discriminated and retaliated against him.
Gibbons denied Kane’s request for the investigative record in March, and Kane asked Madigan’s office to review the decision.
Kane argued that Gibbons publicly cited the report as a reason for making management changes.
On March 29, Madigan’s office asked Gibbons for unredacted copies of the records for confidential review.
Gibbons denied the request on May 15.
In response, Kane sent Madigan’s office a settlement agreement showing the name of the complainant and the nature of her complaint.
Madigan’s office asked Gibbons for unredacted records again on May 17, and Gibbons complied on June 8.
On June 11, Gibbons sent Madigan’s office requests for confidentiality from individuals involved in the investigation.
Jones solved their problem in the AG decision, by recommending redactions.
“Although the state’s attorney’s office has disclosed the alleged victim’s name in the settlement agreement it released, the disclosure of the information identifying the alleged victim in the context of the investigation report would still be objectionable to a reasonable person,” Jones wrote.
“Nonetheless, the state’s attorney’s office did not demonstrate that disclosing general information concerning her allegations would substantially invade her personal privacy under these circumstances.”
Jones wrote that the misconduct did not rise to the severity of sexual assault.
He wrote that Gibbons didn’t provide an unredacted copy of the report until two months after the due date.
“The delay hampered this office’s ability to timely review the validity of the state’s attorney’s office’s denial,” Jones wrote.
He cautioned Gibbons that compliance is mandatory.
In Kane’s federal suit, Magistrate Judge Stephen Williams has set an Oct. 24 hearing on a summary judgment motion from Gibbons and the county.
Background on Hendricks matter
Part of Kane's argument in challenging the State's Attorney for release of documents involving Hendricks was that the office had already produced relative records in the form of a settlement agreement with an accuser dated Feb. 17.
The agreement was signed by Kelly Babillis, who had worked in the State's Attorney's office as a secretary in the felony division until she received a promotion and salary increase pursuant to the settlement. The release of claims indicates Babillis made sexual harassment complaints against Hendricks and a retaliation complaint against her supervisor Peggy Schaake. It indicates that the office conducted an independent investigation into Hendricks' conduct and the investigation "made no conclusion" as to whether Hendricks violated an office sexual harassment policy.
Hendricks' position as chief investigator was eliminated by Gibbons on March 1.
Babillis went from earning $40,352 as secretary into a management position earning $52,000 annually, per terms of the agreement. The new position of executive assistant and support staff supervisor came with three weeks vacation, a private office and attendance of training seminars and conferences.
Further, the State's Attorney's office provided Babillis with $5,000 for attorney's fees incurred in bringing her complaint and securing the release.
The release stated that Babillis asked that the State's Attorney "take lawful steps necessary to prevent the public release of all documentation related to these matters, including her statements and all information collected in the investigation resulting therefrom, as they are highly personal and her right to personal privacy outweighs any public interest therein."
On Feb. 27, the day before Kane made his original request for information, Gibbons announced that Hendricks' position as chief administrator/investigator would be eliminated, and to allow for the effective restructuring of administrative management, Schaake would resign. He also announced Babillis's new position.
According to records the Record received through a FOIA request, Schaake, as an executive legal secretary, had earned slightly less than Babillis's new salary. Schaake made $51,500.80 annually and retired March 1, although paperwork indicates she was awarded two months severance and was paid unused vacation time. Her final gross pay was $8,715.52 for 352 hours and $575.42 for 23.24 vacation hours.
Hendricks had been on paid administrative leave for seven months before his position was eliminated. Gibbons informed Hendricks by memo on Aug. 2, 2017, that he was being placed on leave due to a "complaint filed against him." He had earned $93,163.20 annually. In addition to earning approximately $50,000 while on administrative leave, Hendricks received two months severance and a vacation payout upon his exit. His final gross pay was $15,766.08 and he received $10,391.28 for 232 vacation hours.