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

FILE - In this Sept. 20, 2017 file photo, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., listens during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for Colorado Supreme Court Justice Allison Eid, on her nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Franken is accused of forcibly kissing a woman while rehearsing for a 2006 USO tour; Franken also was photographed with his hands over her breasts as she slept wearing a flak vest. He has apologized, while maintaining that he remembered the rehearsal differently.  (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
Candidate for Ohio governor reveals sexual past on Facebook
Kayla Moore, wife of former Alabama Chief Justice and U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, speaks at a press conference, Friday, Nov. 17, 2017, in Montgomery, Ala. Moore spoke out in defense of her husband, saying they have been married for over 32 years and the Army veteran has always been an officer and a gentleman. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Allegations against Alabama's Roy Moore dividing GOP women
In this photo taken Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017, Jodi Hicks, a lobbyist and partner oath the women-led Sacramento firm, DBHK, poses in Sacramento, Calif. As allegations of pervasive sexual harassment swirl in California's Capitol, Hicks says at least one male lawmaker said he may stop meeting with women lobbyist over drinks and another man told Hicks he would not hire er firm over her he'd have to "walk on eggshells." Hicks says that's the wrong way to fix the problem. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Harassment claims shine light on California Capitol partying
In this still image taken from video provided by KABC-TV, Los Angeles radio anchor Leeann Tweeden discusses her allegations of sexual harassment by Al Franken during a 2006 overseas USO tour, before he became a U.S. senator from Minnesota, at ABC7 studios in Glendale, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017. Franken faces a storm of criticism and a likely ethics investigation. He is the first member of Congress caught up in the recent wave of allegations of sexual abuse and inappropriate behavior. Franken has apologized, and Tweeden said she accepted his apology. (KABC-TV via AP)
The Latest: Ex-staffers vouch for Franken after allegations
In Minnesota, Franken feels heat _ but no broad call to quitSen. Al Franken is facing heat back home after a woman accused him of forcing a kiss during their 2006 USO tour, but no broad call to step down
The Latest: Judge tells critics of his sex post: Lighten upAn Ohio state Supreme Court justice running for governor has a message for people who've criticized him for volunteering candid details about his sexual past on Facebook: 'Lighten up folks'

Related Searches

Related Searches