Change Hayyim, one of Jesse Jackson Jr.'s top aides, his community outreach director, said in an exclusive interview with ABC7 investigative reporter Chuck Goudie she was harassed by the congressman and his chief of staff into leaving Chicago and going on hiatus.
The I-Team first told you about this story last week, that Congressman Jackson had emerged from hiding long enough to fire the staffer.
The I-Team interviewed the top Jackson aide via satellite from her retreat in Memphis.
Term after term, the congressman from one of Illinois' most famous and most influential political families has been re-elected. For years as the 2nd District representative, Jackson Jr. has depended on this Hayyim to oversee his community outreach efforts. That was until Hayyim, who is Jewish, wanted to take off for a High Holiday.
"Rick Bryant, who was then the congressman's district director, made it a point to advise me that Yom Kippur is a minor Jewish holiday," Hayyim said, "that another colleague in the office did not observe it and therefore I could not observe it."
Hayyim filed a civil rights suit, pending in federal court, and continued working for Congressman Jackson even through over the summer when Jackson took off months to be treated for mental illness and was unable to work.
"The only contact I've had is the e-mail from October 24," Hayyim said.
That e-mail from Rick Bryant, now chief of staff, notified Hayyim that Congressman Jackson had emerged from his b-polar treatment long enough to fire her, allegedly for working with a political opponent, an allegation she denies.
Hayyim says she went to see the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
"I started to receive harassment after I went to see Rev. Jackson," Hayyim said. "I've had people coming by my home taking pictures and damaging property, which I filed a police report for, but I removed myself from that location to a safer place."
In Memphis Tuesday, Hayyim told the I-Team that she feels badly about leaving constituents in need.
"That's the biggest joy that I have had, being able to address issues for everyday people and I apologize to the constituents for my silence," Hayyim said.
Hayyim says she is having to represent herself in the federal suit because she hasn't been able to find an attorney willing to go up against what she calls "the Jackson machine."
Congressman Jackson's chief of staff declined to answer questions about any of the allegations and Jackson himself has not yet surfaced.