Report: Crude and sexual remarks part of 'locker room' atmosphere in state's attorney's office

By Brian Brueggemann | Jan 8, 2019

A newly-released report on a sexual harassment complaint in the Madison County State’s Attorney’s Office says there was a “locker room-type” culture in the prosecutor’s office, with crude and sexual talk being common.

The report was prepared by the O’Fallon-based Kurowski Schultz law firm, which conducted an investigation at the request of Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons. Gibbons requested the investigation after a secretary, Kelly Babillis, made a sexual harassment complaint against Kevin Hendricks. Hendricks, at the time, was the administrator and chief investigator in Gibbons’ office.

The report by Kurowski Schultz does not make a conclusion on whether Hendricks sexually harassed the woman, and Hendricks denied the allegations that he made “unwanted acts” toward her. But the report noted there were “several things” that “reflected adversely upon the credibility of Kevin Hendricks,” and that he “does not have a full appreciation of the significance of his alleged conduct here in a professional office setting and that it should not be tolerated.”

The report also states that “many of Kevin Hendricks’ denials, recollections and/or perceptions regarding his conduct are inconsistent with other statements and evidence gathered during this investigation.”

Witnesses, the report says, “described the office as having a ‘locker room-like’ atmosphere. They all agreed that it was common for Hendricks to engage in this type of behavior with the staff.” The report adds: “The witnesses found it difficult to provides examples of specific comments that Hendricks had made because it is so common and occurs on such a regular basis that it does not register with them anymore.”

Gibbons and Hendricks could not immediately be reached for comment.

The report was completed in September 2017, but has not been public before now. The report was released last week to Andrew Kane, a former secretary in the prosecutor’s office who accused Hendricks of sexual discrimination. Kane is suing the county and Gibbons’ office inn federal court.

Magistrate Judge Stephen Williams in October dismissed the part of Kane’s suit that alleged he was discriminated against. The judge wrote: “There is concrete evidence in the record that demonstrates the initial reason for plaintiff’s termination was based on plaintiff’s conduct and comments rather than discrimination on the basis of gender." But the judge left standing a portion of the suit in which Kane alleges he suffered retaliation after making his initial complaint. The parties held a settlement conference last month, but no settlement was reached.

Babillis reached a settlement with the state’s attorney’s office, under which she received a promotion and a $12,000 raise.

Kane sought the report on the Babillis matter through a Freedom of Information Act request. Gibbons’ office initially refused to release the report, but Kane appealed to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s public access office, which found that the report should be released. Madigan’s office informed Gibbons that he could redact any names or salacious material from the report.

Kane, in an interview Monday, said the level of redaction to the report seems high.

“It leaves a lot to be curious about,” Kane said.

Kane also said Gibbons should resign.

“Gibbons owns the conduct of that office,” Kane said.

Hendricks, meantime, began working mid-December as a patrolman for the Alton Police Department. Gibbons wrote a letter of recommendation to the Alton Police Department on behalf of Hendricks.

“Throughout his employment with this office, Mr. Hendricks performed in an exemplary fashion and had a clean disciplinary record with no violations of office policy,” Gibbons wrote. “Mr. Hendricks voluntarily terminated his employment on March 1, 2018, and received a severance package.”

Gibbons has said that Hendricks’ position was eliminated. Hendricks’ final salary was about $93,000.

Alton Police Chief Jason Simmons said the hiring of police officers is essentially conducted by the city’s civil service commission. Simmons said a background check was conducted.

“We did get a letter from the Madison County State’s Attorney’s Office, saying that he was cleared of any issues,” Simmons said.

Simmons said Hendricks' salary is about $60,000. The salary, which reflects Hendricks having a bachelor's degree, is determined through a police union contract, Simmons said.

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