Let’s be clear. Everyone in the government at the federal, state and local levels is very concerned about the ongoing sexual harassment crisis and they want you to know that they’re all over this problem. Evil shall be rooted out wherever it’s found, exposed to the sunshine of public scrutiny and eliminated, providing women with the safe, healthy working environments they should have always had. Unless, that is, you’re talking about the halls of government itself.
Out in California, the land of progressive equality and human rights, the Golden State’s legislature has been getting some polite inquiries from the state’s largest newspaper, the Los Angeles Times. Reporters there got wind of a history of sexual harassment allegations against lawmakers and their staffers, many of which may have been settled under conditions of anonymity. So let’s have a list of all of those, shall we?
The response of the assembly? Stop asking because we’re not going to tell you. (Emphasis added)
The California Legislature has refused to release additional information on sexual harassment complaints requested by the Los Angeles Times in the wake of widespread scrutiny on how the Capitol handles such matters.
Officials representing the Senate and Assembly each said late Tuesday that they were denying a request by The Times, submitted on Nov. 3, for data beginning in 2006 for “all cases involving current and former employees of the [Legislature], current or former members, or any other person who was the subject of an inquiry by the [Legislature] where the charges were found to be true, discipline was imposed or the complaints were judged to be well-founded.”
Daniel Alvarez, the secretary of the Senate, and Debra Gravert, the chief administrative officer of the Assembly, cited the Legislative Open Records Act in denying the request. The act says certain records are exempt from mandatory disclosure, including personnel files and records of complaints to or investigations conducted by the Legislature.
Did you catch that excuse being offered by the assembly? They’re citing the hilariously named Legislative Open Records Act, which states that the public records of the taxpayers’ employees in Sacramento are to be an open book… unless, of course, the records in question involve, “personnel files and records of complaints to or investigations conducted by the Legislature.”
Perish the thought! Why in the world should the public have a right to see records of investigations and complaints involving the people they vote into office and pay the salaries of? That’s just crazy talk there, fellas.
All the legislature was willing to provide the LA Times with was “summary data” which indicated that more thirty sexual harassment complaints were received regarding the august body’s members since 2006 alone. Which legislators specifically? None of your damn business, peasants. We don’t have to tell you and we specifically wrote the law that way to make sure you don’t bother asking. The only one we know of for sure so far is Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima), but he’s already resigning after six women went public with such accusations against him.
Is any of this sounding familiar yet? It should, since we have a similar law at the federal level. The equally laugh-out-loud, inappropriately named Congressional Accountability Act is what allowed for sealed records and taxpayer-financed slush fund settlements for victims of members of Congress when they’re accused of discrimination or harassment. As that linked article from the NY Post reminds us, “this year alone, the US Treasury has confidentially paid $934,754 to settle sexual harassment and other complaints against members of Congress and their staff.”
So will we be seeing a list of those folks any time soon? Don’t count on it.