California Senate changes process for sex harassment claimsNovember 13, 2017 5:16am

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The California Senate announced Sunday it will hire an outside legal team to investigate all complaints of sexual misconduct and recommend discipline following new allegations against Democratic Sen. Tony Mendoza.

The Senate has long handled harassment complaints internally by human resources employees that report to a committee of five lawmakers and has not made details of complaints or discipline public. Women who work in and around the Capitol have argued that process stops them from coming forward over fears of political and professional retaliation. The outside legal team will make public any complaints and discipline at the discretion of victims and whistleblowers, the Senate Rules Committee members said in a joint statement. The Rules Committee and the Senate Democratic Women's Caucus will work "expeditiously" to hire an outside legal team, the statement said.

"This process will be designed to protect the privacy of victims and whistleblowers, transparency for the public, and adequate due process for all parties involved," the statement said.

The Legislature has faced steady criticism over its handling of sexual misconduct allegations since nearly 150 women signed a letter in mid-October outlining a pervasive culture of sexual harassment and a system that does little to stop perpetrators.

The allegations that emerged last week against Mendoza, the first sitting senator named in connection with harassment, prompted the change in investigative procedures. The Los Angeles-area Democrat is accused of sexually harassing at least two young women who previously worked for him. The allegations are that Mendoza repeatedly invited a young female employee back to his house this year and that in 2008, when he was in the Assembly, Mendoza offered a 19-year-old intern alcohol at a hotel during an event in San Jose. Mendoza has denied behaving inappropriately.

The Senate said it began investigating Mendoza's recent behavior in September. The allegations against him will now be investigated by the outside lawyers when they are hired, the Rules Committee said.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon said the Senate leader moved out of a house he shared with Mendoza in Sacramento this weekend.

Many lawmakers have rooms or houses in Sacramento they stay in during session, and de Leon had been renting a room in Mendoza's home, his spokesman said.

De Leon, who heads the Rules Committee, said through his spokesmen that he didn't know about the allegations that Mendoza had invited a young woman to the home and was unaware of the investigation into it.

De Leon recently launched a bid for U.S. Senate against Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a fellow Democrat and one of California's most prominent women in politics.

The Assembly, meanwhile, has not announced any changes in its processes for handling harassment allegations. It plans to hold a public hearing on Nov. 28 for people to offer suggestions for improving its processes.

The group of women who launched the open letter about harassment at the Capitol applauded the Senate's change.

"We are pleased to see that Senate leadership is taking seriously the many accounts of harassment, abuse and discrimination that have been brought forward in the past few weeks," the group said in a statement.

Page 1 of 1

More Stories Like This

The Latest: McConnell asks again for Franken ethics inquirySenate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is renewing his call for the chamber's ethics committee to investigate Sen. Al Franken after a second woman has come forward to accuse him of sexual harassment
FILE - In this Thursday, Nov. 6, 2003 file photo, former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore holds his Bible as he acknowledges the applause during his speech at the Barrow County Court House in Winder, Ga. Moore drew rounds of applause as he spoke in support of the framed Ten Commandments in the courthouse breezeway. (AP Photo/Ric Feld)
The Latest: White House remains noncommittal on Roy Moore
FILE - In this June 21, 2017 file photo, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., listens at a committee hearing at the Capitol in Washington. A second woman has accused Minnesota Sen. Al Franken of inappropriate touching, saying Monday, Nov. 20, 2017 that he put his hand on her bottom as they posed for a picture at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010, after he had begun his career in the Senate. Menz's allegation comes days after a Los Angeles broadcaster, Leeann Tweeden, accused Franken of forcibly kissing her during a 2006 USO tour. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite File)
New allegation against Franken, this time met with silence
FILE - In this Jan. 8, 2017, file photo, Harvey Weinstein arrives at The Weinstein Company and Netflix Golden Globes afterparty in Beverly Hills, Calif.  Weinstein is accused by dozens of women of sexual harassment or assault. He was fired by The Weinstein Co., expelled from various professional guilds and is under investigation by police departments in New York, London, Beverly Hills and Los Angeles. He denies all allegations of non-consensual sex, but he has apologized for causing "a lot of pain" with "the way I've behaved with colleagues in the past.” (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)
France wrestles with the line between seduction, harassment
FILE - In this Nov. 16, 2017, file photo, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez answers a question from a reporter before entering the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Courthouse for his federal corruption trial, in Newark, N.J. Menendez's political fate in next year's crucial midterms after the mistrial in his federal bribery case may hinge on whether prosecutors retry him and whether attacks from Republicans based on the indictment convince voters to keep him from a third term. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)
Looking toward election after Menendez's 'Resurrection Day'
Senator Al Franken cut from PBS David Letterman tributePBS and WETA say Minnesota Senator Al Franken will not appear substantially in David Letterman's Mark Twain Prize special airing Monday night
AdChoices

Related Searches

Related Searches

AdChoices