The California Senate spent $98,000 in taxpayer money to pay a private law firm to investigate a sordid story of nepotism and cronyism in the Senate.
On Tuesday, the Senate refused to release the final report into how public servants used and misused their positions of authority to hire, protect and coddle friends and family.
What an unfortunate coda to an otherwise successful run by outgoing Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.
The Senate cited exemptions to the Legislative Open Records Act to justify withholding the report by the law firm, Gordon & Rees, saying its release would constitute an “unwarranted invasion of personal privacy,” and breach attorney-client privilege.
We understand the importance of attorney-client privilege. But certainly the client – the Senate – could have waived that privilege.
We also understand the right to privacy. Senate employees who spoke to the outside attorney should have their privacy protected, if that was the only condition on which they would speak openly.
But surely, sensitive portions of the report could have been redacted. Gordon & Rees also could have prepared a summary.
Also on Tuesday, Dina Hidalgo, who headed human resources for the Senate, stepped down, following reports by The Sacramento Bee’s Laurel Rosenhall detailing numerous instances in which Hidalgo’s son, other family members and softball teammates landed Senate jobs.
The Senate did release Hidalgo’s settlement agreement, showing she will receive $85,400 in walking-away money, much of which comes in the form of back sick pay, and includes $13,000 to cover her legal fees.
As part of the settlement, the Senate agreed not to release the Gordon & Rees report. We understand why Hidalgo would want the matter kept quiet.
The findings might be embarrassing if, as seems evident, she protected her son, Gerardo Lopez. Lopez was part of the Senate’s security staff, perhaps came to work high, and apparently received favored treatment.
The Senate hired an outside investigator to produce an earlier report to determine whether Lopez posed a security threat, at $41,000, another Hidalgo family cost to taxpayers.
Hidalgo’s last day on the state payroll will be Oct. 15. The Senate’s sad chapter is coming to a close. But it won’t fully conclude until all the details, sordid and otherwise, become public.