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

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.

Political Reporter
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.

Political Reporter
Open Reporting: Capitol

March 14, 2018 3:06 pm

Capitol reporters ask Legislature to release harassment records routinely

Reporters covering lawmakers in the California Capitol on January 25, 2018. Photo by Max Whittaker for CALmatters.
Reporters covering lawmakers in the California Capitol in January. Photo by Max Whittaker for CALmatters.

Last month, legislative leaders broke from their custom of keeping records about sexual harassment in the Capitol secret when they released a decade of documents about misconduct by lawmakers and high-level staff. But in the weeks since, reporters who cover the state Capitol have faced a mishmash of responses when we’ve sought additional harassment records from the Legislature—including long delays for some reporters.

The Legislature’s inconsistency makes it harder for journalists to give Californians timely information about your government.

So the Capitol Correspondents Association of California—which represents reporters who cover the statehouse—today sent a letter to the Legislature’s leaders asking for an improved and consistent system for releasing information about substantiated cases of sexual harassment. The association is asking the Legislature to proactively release records on such cases on a public web site, so that not only reporters will have access to it but voters will as well. Read the letter here:

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