California’s legislature released years’ worth of records detailing sexual harassment investigations of elected officials and staff.
The toppling of powerful men in the worlds of entertainment, media and politics has reverberated through California’s government, the seat of the world’s sixth-largest economy, with multiple elected officials stepping aside after being accused of sexual misconduct and another on a leave of absence pending an investigation.
The legislature released documentation of workplace harassment amid mounting demands for more transparency, including in a letter from more than 100 women in California politics. Among those named in dozens of pages of internal records are four current elected officials, one of whom is running for governor, and three former.
While a chunk of the documents was redacted, they still offer descriptions of unwanted touching, inappropriate and sexual office comments and people viewing pornography on work computers. The punishments varied. Some of the accused were fired, but others were allowed to continue working for the state.
Raul Bocanegra, a then-chief of staff deemed to have imposed “unwelcome and physical contact” on staffers at a nightclub was told he would be temporarily suspended and have to attend counselling; he was later repeatedly elected to the Assembly and resigned under pressure after those allegations were made public.
In another instance, a senior aide who sent sexually explicit images to subordinates was allowed to remain employed if he took a pay cut and a demotion due to his “lengthy tenure”. Years later, the Assembly decided to fire him after an internal investigation concluded he had likely touched a woman’s buttocks and vaginal area.
Paralleling a global #MeToo movement that has spurred women to publicly accuse scores of influential figures, women in the world of California politics launched their own #WeSaidEnough campaign to call attention to what they described as rampant harassment.
When Time magazine made the “Silence Breakers” its person of the year, California lobbyist Adama Iwu — a leader of the movement there — was one of the women pictured on its cover.