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. 5, 2018 5:07 pm

Legislature’s leaders say they’ll release sexual harassment records for “well-founded” claims

Both leaders of California’s Legislature have agreed to release records about certain investigations of sexual harassment in the state Capitol.

“The Senate and the Assembly will release documents related to sexual harassment claims that have been substantiated against a high-level legislative employee or legislator for which discipline has been imposed or allegations have been determined to be well-founded,” Senate leader Kevin de León and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said in a joint statement released Friday.

“The documents to be released will be the claim filed and the letter provided to the accuser or the accused wrapping up the investigation and providing information about the final outcome of the investigation. All documents will redact the personally-identifying information of the accuser and any witnesses for privacy reasons.”

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Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon chats with Senate President Kevin de León. Photo by Steve Yeater for CALmatters

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon chats with Senate President Kevin de León. Photo by Steve Yeater for CALmatters

De León has instructed his staff to release the records within the next two weeks, his chief of staff said. Rendon’s office gave a less precise timeline, saying they are working to compile the information and will release it in the coming weeks.

The announcement comes as a wave of sexual misconduct allegations roils the statehouse, leading two assemblymen to resign and a state senator to take a leave of absence. Since October, when nearly 150 women signed an open letter complaining that California politics is rife with a pervasive culture of harassment, reporters have been requesting documents held by the Legislature about its investigations into workplace complaints.

The Legislature initially refused to release such information, arguing that the law does not require disclosing it. But the law does not forbid the Legislature from releasing the records, a case I made in letters to legislative leaders in November. Transparency about substantiated cases of abuse, I wrote, is in the public interest.

De León said last month that he would release the information, while Rendon’s position was unclear until today.

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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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