Capitol Alert

Legislature to summarize – but not fully disclose – its sexual harassment history

The Assembly on Nov. 28 will begin hearings on sexual harassment at the Capitol.
The Assembly on Nov. 28 will begin hearings on sexual harassment at the Capitol. AP

Both houses of the California Legislature say they are preparing a summary of “information concerning sexual harassment related matters.”

In response to The Sacramento Bee’s requests for reports on sexual harassment complaints or reports involving legislators or staff, officials from both houses said that they are concerned about releasing details.

“The public disclosure of records concerning complaints and investigations compromises the privacy rights of victims, witnesses, and others. Public disclosure may even have the unfortunate effect of discouraging our employees and others from coming forward with complaints or information,” said Secretary of the Senate Daniel Alvarez and Assembly Chief Administrative Officer Debra Gravert, using identical language in separate letters.

Instead, the two said the houses are preparing summaries that “will disclose pertinent information while protecting the privacy interests of those involved.”

When the Assembly holds a hearing on the subject later this month, Assemblywoman Laura Friedman – the Democrat who chairs the Assembly Rules Subcommittee on Harassment, Discrimination, and Retaliation Prevention and Response – says victims of harassment or abuse will not be asked to testify, though they are welcome to share their stories.

“We are asking that they share their ideas for change – we want to know where our system breaks down, and how we can improve it to protect everyone who works in and around the Capitol. Every idea will be welcome, whether submitted anonymously or offered in public,” she said in a statement.

To that end, Sacramento Bee reporter Adam Ashton has surveyed other states and compiled information on what others are doing.

While now-Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra and former Assemblyman Steve Fox have been named in connection with sexual harassment, others have not. Lobbyist Pamela Lopez said she was followed into a bathroom in 2016 by a lawmaker who locked the door and masturbated in front of her. That lawmaker has not been identified, and The Bee is seeking information from anyone with knowledge of the incident.

If you’re just catching up, here are links to key developments:

‘We’re done with this:’ Women in California politics launch anti-sexual harassment campaign

It’s a ‘boys club’ at the California Capitol, say women working there

In her own words: Women of California politics tell their stories of sexual harassment and unwanted touching

California Assembly agrees to pay six figures to settle lawsuit against former lawmaker

Capitol aide ‘felt very much like prey’ when California ​lawmaker groped her

Culture of ‘fear’ stops women from reporting harassment at California’s Capitol

Meanwhile, state Democratic Party Chair Eric Bauman said Bocanegra needs to do some soul-searching about whether to stay in office.