SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — One of two women who filed a workplace retaliation lawsuit against Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth said Wednesday she wants to back out of a settlement reached last month.
The decision could mean the case goes to trial just months before Duckworth faces U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk in a November contest that can influence which party controls the Senate. The development came the day before Duckworth speaks at the Democratic National Convention.
The lawsuit alleges that Duckworth violated ethics laws in reprimanding Christine Butler and Denise Goins when Duckworth led the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs.
Butler told The Associated Press Wednesday that she changed her mind about the settlement because she feels Duckworth is trying to tarnish the women’s reputations by stating the allegations are false.
“We were whistleblowers and she’s bullying us, and we’re going to stand up to tell the truth,” Butler said.
The Daily Herald first reported the decision to withdraw from the settlement agreement.
Duckworth has denied any wrongdoing in a case that has spanned eight years. In the lawsuit, Butler and Goins contend that Duckworth tried to fire one employee and gave another a bad review that cost her raises after the women complained about facility leadership at an Illinois VA home, where they still work.
It remained unclear how far along the settlement paperwork was in the legal process or what would happen next in the case, which still has an Aug. 15 trial date.
Duckworth’s campaign referred questions to the Illinois Attorney General’s office, which has represented the congresswoman in the lawsuit.
“As far as we know, the case was settled on June 24th, and the AG’s office is finalizing it. All questions should be referred to them,” Duckworth’s deputy campaign manager, Matt McGrath, said in an email.
A statement from the Attorney General’s office offered little clarity in the matter.
“Our comment is that we reached a final settlement agreement last month and the paperwork is being finalized,” spokeswoman Maura Possley said in an email, but did not elaborate or return phone calls.
Butler said she never signed the settlement agreement and that her decision was not politically motivated. Her fellow plaintiff did not immediately respond to a call from the AP, but the Daily Herald reported that both women are backing out of the settlement agreement.
The agreement stipulated that Duckworth did nothing wrong and included $26,000 for the plaintiffs’ attorney fees and court costs. Butler said that amount wouldn’t cover their legal fees.