SACRAMENTO – Members of the California State Senate Rules Committee — Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), Senator Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), Senator Tom Berryhill (R-Modesto), Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres) and Senator Connie Leyva (D-Chino) released the following statement today:
“The last few weeks, the California State Senate and its Rules Committee have been evaluating recommendations to enhance its process for investigating and resolving sexual harassment claims to ensure the safety of employees, provide additional independence and transparency, and increase trust among Capitol staff, potential whistleblowers and the public at large.
“Today - in light of troubling allegations in the media against a sitting Senator - the Senate President pro Tempore and Rules Committees in agreement with the Senate Democratic Women's Caucus have together taken the extraordinary step to announce the following immediate reforms:
“Effective immediately, Senate Rules will no longer be handling complaints of sexual abuse, assault or harassment.
“Instead, an independent outside legal team will investigate any and all allegations and make findings and recommendations to resolve and, where appropriate, discipline. The Senate’s Rules Committee and Senate Democratic Women’s Caucus will work jointly and expeditiously to retain a highly qualified team of counsel and investigators to fulfill this obligation.
“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.
“While - at the discretion of victims and whistleblowers - names and details might be redacted, the general findings will be made public.
“All current complaints, allegations and open investigations, including the most recent allegations against a sitting Senator, will be subject to this new independent process.
“At the same time, the Senate President pro Tempore has asked the Women's Caucus to provide additional recommendations on new protections that will encourage those who have been victims or witnesses of harassment to come forward and report - and provide counsel and assistance throughout the reporting process.”
Quote from California Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León:
"This State Senate is a sacred place of public service and it must also be a safe place for everyone who works here.
“The people who work here and the public we serve must have complete confidence that no public official is above the law or our strict zero-tolerance harassment policies. Those who violate these policies will be held to account - swiftly and justly.
“These reforms are about trust, about justice and about time - and I thank my colleagues, especially our Women's Caucus, for making them an urgent priority."
Quote from members of the Senate Democratic Women's Caucus:
"The culture of harassment and the code of silence surrounding it have plagued this Capitol for too long - and it's time for us to acknowledge that a system can't protect victims and witnesses if victims and witnesses can't trust the system.
“Creating an outside independent process and additional protections for victims and whistleblowers will help restore confidence that employees will be safeguarded and perpetrators - no matter how powerful - will be punished.
“We thank Senator de León and the Senate Rules Committee for treating this issue - and these most recent allegations - with the urgent seriousness they deserve."