Attorney general: Duckworth workplace retaliation settlement offer final

 
 
Updated 7/29/2016 4:56 PM
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  • Rep. Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat from Illinois, speaks during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Thursday.

    Rep. Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat from Illinois, speaks during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Thursday. David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

After two women suing congresswoman Tammy Duckworth announced they were rejecting a settlement deal, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office said Thursday it is viewing the agreement as final.

The latest development highlights an ongoing theme of protracted dissonance in the case that has become a key focus of the race for U.S. Senate, where Duckworth, a Hoffman Estates Democrat, hopes to unseat GOP U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk of Highland park. While the plaintiffs -- two workers from a downstate veterans home -- insist they are going to trial next month, the attorney general, who represents Duckworth, says the case is over.

"It's typical practice that after finalizing a settlement, the parties sign our standard form. If a plaintiff declines to sign the form, that does not change whether the agreement is final," Madigan spokeswoman Maura Possley said.

Plaintiffs Denise Goins and Christine Butler told the Daily Herald Wednesday they were insulted by the Duckworth campaign's June 24 response to the settlement. Deputy campaign manager Matt McGrath had released a statement describing the suit as "a frivolous workplace case" that dragged on for more than eight years.

"Within an hour of leaving the courthouse, her campaign decided to swing us through the mud again," Butler said. "So we emailed our attorney to let him know we want to proceed to trial."

Goins and Butler, speaking with the Daily Herald again on Thursday, said that throughout settlement conferences this spring, they had been assured by their attorney that until the paperwork was signed, they had not committed to anything.

The women met again with their attorney Tuesday night. "We told him we wanted to continue to trial. He never said that wasn't possible. He said we would still be proceeding to trial unless an agreement was signed."

The attorney general's office said Thursday that while it views the agreement as final, that no settlement agreement had yet been submitted to the courts.

A spokeswoman at the Union County courthouse confirmed an Aug. 15 trial date for the case remains on Judge Mark Boie's docket.

The case dates back to 2007, when Goins and Butler made ethics complaints about their boss. Duckworth was heading the state's Department of Veterans Affairs at the time.

Butler says she was fired by Duckworth for being "insubordinate." Butler later was put on leave instead.

Goins says Duckworth told her the same day: "If you do your job and keep your mouth shut and concentrate on job duties, you will keep your job."

Duckworth denies treating the employees unfairly.

Republican state Sen. Matt Murphy, an attorney by trade, said that experience has taught him that a judge has the final say in such matters.

"The attorney general has a position that this agreement was final, the plaintiffs are going to have a different position that (it's not). The judge will decide. It's not over yet."

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