CALmatters' Capitol columnist Laurel Rosenhall

Open Reporting: Inside the Capitol

This post is part of our Open Reporting at CALmatters, in which we share progress on stories as we’re developing them, while also inviting you to share thoughts and comments to help inform our research. Our goal: more transparent and effective journalism. We welcome your feedback.

Open Reporting: Capitol

Jan. 4, 2018 9:13 am

California Assembly leader not saying whether he’ll release sexual harassment records

Taking a different tone from his counterpart in the state Senate, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon on Wednesday would not yet commit to releasing information reporters requested about sexual harassment investigations held by his house.

“We are formulating a response to your letter,” Rendon said when I asked him during a meeting with reporters if he would release records I and other reporters had requested about harassment investigations.

“Our attorneys are trying to figure out how we make sure there is proper transparency. And also that we are abiding by our HR protections,” Rendon said, adding that the issue will be examined by a newly formed committee of senators and assembly members looking at the Capitol’s response to sexual harassment complaints.

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Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon

On Nov. 27, I sent letters to Rendon and Senate leader Kevin de León, both Democrats from Los Angeles, requesting records on a narrow set of harassment complaints: those that had been investigated and determined to be substantiated.

The public has access to similar information from other government agencies such as city councils under the California Public Records Act. But the Legislature exempted itself from that law, instead writing its own open records act that does not require it to release investigations.

The discrepancy is under new scrutiny as allegations of sexual harassment rock the California Capitol. Two legislators—Assemblymen Raul Bocanegra and Matt Dababneh—resigned at the end of 2017 following accusations that they had harassed or assaulted women. A third legislator, Sen. Tony Mendoza, announced Wednesday he is taking a leave of absence while harassment allegations against him are investigated. The legislators have disputed the allegations.

All of that comes after nearly 150 women signed onto a letter in October complaining of what they called the Capitol’s pervasive culture of sexual harassment.

On Dec. 14, Senate leader de León said he would “break away with the tradition in this institution” and release information reporters had requested on the Legislature’s investigations of sexual harassment complaints. He pledged to release the records within 30 days.

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Open Reporting: Capitol

April 19, 2018 10:01 pm

We’ve updated our spreadsheet with the latest harassment investigation

The state Senate has released results of an investigation finding that Adam Keigwin, the former chief of staff to Sen. Leland Yee, likely engaged in sexually inappropriate conduct with a female employee when they both worked for the Senate, including unwanted touching and exposing himself. Keigwin, now a lobbyist, said in a statement that the allegations are “absolutely untrue.” Read further coverage in  the Sacramento Bee and the Los Angeles Times.

This is the latest in a series of harassment investigations that have been made public by the Legislature in the wake of the #MeToo movement that has exposed sexual misconduct in many workplaces. I’m keeping track of the cases coming out of the California Capitol with this spreadsheet, which we created when the Legislature released a first batch of records on Feb. 2. You can scroll to the far-right column to seek a link to the source documents for each case.

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Open Reporting: Capitol

April 9, 2018 9:55 am

Track the Legislature’s sexual harassment records with our spreadsheet

#metoo sexual harassment
Photo via Pixabay

The latest sexual harassment investigation released by the Legislature shows a former chief of staff “more likely than not” made sexually suggestive comments to staff members and leered at employees in a way that made them uncomfortable. Rodney Wilson, who was the top aide to Assemblyman Tom Daly until he resigned in January, said in an email to CALmatters on Friday that he disagreed with the report’s conclusion, but he apologized “to those who may have been offended by their perception of the way I looked at them or what they believe they might have heard.”

In releasing the records, legislative administrators wrote a letter saying they are not required by law to make them public. However, facing intense pressure from the media amid a national reckoning over sexual harassment, legislative leaders agreed to release a subset of records—those detailing sexual harassment complaints against elected lawmakers and high-level staff that were substantiated by an investigation or for which a settlement was paid.

At this point the Legislature has released all records from the past that are likely to be made public. However, numerous investigations are currently under way; I and other reporters have asked the Legislature to release them as they are completed.

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To keep track of the cases and make the source documents available to the public, I’ll continue updating this spreadsheet, which we created when the Legislature released a first batch of records on Feb. 2.

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Open Reporting: Capitol

April 5, 2018 4:25 pm

Legislature releases details on 5 older harassment cases

The Legislature has released another swath of harassment records—this time detailing five cases it substantiated or in which a settlement was reached—involving elected members and high-level employees between 1992 and 2005.

Only one case involved an elected official, and he is not named in the records released by the Legislature. News accounts have described allegations against then-Sen. Richard Polanco, a Los Angeles Democrat, that resulted in a $117,200 settlement payment of taxpayer funds to Karri Velasquez in 1998, and those details match the date, amount and victim name in the documents released today.

The records also describe four cases of harassment by high-level legislative staff, only one of whom, Ronald Jackson, was terminated. The other three—David Commons, Bob Biddle and Josephine Figueroa—were given warnings, allowed to resign, or granted an unpaid leave of absence.

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Read the Assembly records here.

Read the Senate records here.

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