California Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) announced Thursday he is taking the steps to end a culture of sexual harassment in the Capitol by hiring two law firms with experience in investigating work-place misconduct following a series of allegations.
“America is finally reckoning with entrenched inequities in our personal and professional relationships and in workplaces of every type,” said Senator de León at a Capitol press conference. “Nowhere is this reckoning more important than in the halls of power – our political institutions.”
De León is also partnering with with WEAVE, a Sacramento crisis-intervention organization for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, to deliver assistance and counseling to victims of sexual harassment in the Sente staff. All reports will be confidential and no information will be shared with the Senate without the written consent of a victim.
Investigators and WEAVE will establish hotlines for victims of sexual misconduct and other forms of abuse to call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The organization will also provide monthly reports to the Rules Committee on misconduct found, without identifying the victims.
WEAVE is also teaming up with the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA) and the Rules Committee to development sexual assault prevention training materials
The lawyers from the firms Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and Van Dermyden Maddux were selected by a bi-partisan panel of Senators and have been retained for two years to look into allegations against senators, including Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) and Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys).
De León said he asked Sen. Mendoza to take a leave of absence until the investigation into allegations against him ends.
Sen. Bob Hertzberg is well-known for greeting people with hugs, but three women who have or still work in the Legislature claim his hugs crossed into inappropriate territory.
These reports came as the California Legislature deals with multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, which already prompted two Assembly Democrats to resign. Hertzberg spokeswoman, Katie Hanzlik, said he will now be more mindful of whether people are comfortable with his hugs in the future and released this statement from Sen. Hertzberg to ABC10:
“All of my life I have greeted my friends and colleagues with a hug. My intentions have only been to foster a warm, human connection. I apologize to anyone who may have ever felt uncomfortable, and I will change how I greet people moving forward.”
Hertzberg was elected to the senate in 2014 after serving many terms in the Assembly, including as speaker. The Associated Press contributed to this story.