The dome of the state Capitol glows in the early evening. Rich Pedroncelli The Associated Press
The dome of the state Capitol glows in the early evening. Rich Pedroncelli The Associated Press

Capitol Alert

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Capitol Alert

California Capitol averages three sexual harassment investigations per year

By Alexei Koseff

akoseff@sacbee.com

November 09, 2017 06:13 PM

The California Legislature says it has investigated 30 allegations of sexual harassment in the past decade.

In response to a public records request by The Bee, the Senate and Assembly rules committees on Thursday provided a “summary of information concerning sexual harassment related matters.” The nearly identical letters break down the number of “investigations related to allegations of sexual harassment” by year since 2007.

According to Secretary of the Senate Daniel Alvarez, Senate “records indicate 14 investigations” in the past decade, ranging from zero (in 2008, 2012 and 2013) to three (2009 and 2015). Debra Gravert, the Assembly’s chief administrative officer, said Assembly “records indicate 16 investigations,” ranging from zero (2007 and 2012) to four (2009).

In a written statement, We Said Enough, a group of women in California politics who launched a campaign against sexual misconduct at the Capitol and beyond with the publication of an open letter last month, called the disclosure insufficient.

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“The Legislature continues to do what it does best, protect itself,” the organization wrote. “This release of documents gets taxpayers no closer to knowing what happens when an employee makes a complaint and how it was handled. We have no way of knowing if this represents the full universe of complaints or just a select few. We continue to call on the Legislature to be completely transparent about their process and settlements that they have paid out.”

The Bee last month requested any complaints of sexual harassment, abuse, assault or misconduct filed against legislative members or staff members since 2007, as well as any reports generated by investigations into those complaints.

The Senate and Assembly responded last week that they would not fulfill the request because of privacy concerns, but would instead prepare summaries of “pertinent information.”

“The public disclosure of records concerning complaints and investigations compromises the privacy rights of victims, witnesses, and others. Public disclosure may even have the unfortunate effect of discouraging our employees and others from coming forward with complaints or information,” Alvarez and Gravert wrote, using identical language in separate letters.

Neither the Senate nor Assembly rules committee could immediately clarify whether the 30 investigations encompassed all complaints of sexual harassment at the Capitol in the past decade, or whether some complaints were not investigated.

Current and former legislative staff members have said there is a widespread reluctance to report misconduct to Capitol administrators out of fear of that employees could lose their jobs or face other professional repercussions for speaking up.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff