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Senator Tony Mendoza Calls for Transparency in Harassment Investigation Process by Senate


State Senator Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) sent a letter today to Members of the Senate asking for transparency and fairness in the overall harassment investigation process.


January 25, 2018

To: Members of the Senate

Re: New investigative process and related issues

I am reaching out to you directly today because, despite the public demands for a concrete and transparent approach to addressing and preventing sexual harassment in the workplace, the Senate Leadership’s new process for handling harassment complaints continues to be dark, unclear, and seems to be slowly evolving on an ad hoc basis. As noted in the new Joint Committee on Rules / Subcommittee On Sexual Harassment Prevention and Response hearing yesterday, certainty and transparency in the process, including knowing how to complain, how a complaint is investigated, who is accountable, and what happens after the investigation is important for both victims and the accused.

My experience in the past three months shows that there are clear flaws in the new sexual harassment investigative process: the abdication of leadership in defining and adhering to any consistent policy regarding complaint filing, the arbitrary selection process for doling out suspensions or leaves of absence, the lack of clear determinative standards for launching the investigation processes, the lack of a timeline for the investigation, uncertainty about continued employment during an investigation, Committee members commenting publicly about specific cases before investigations are complete, the lack of due process protocols and protections, and the lack of clarity about actions that may be taken based on a finding.

Just for instance, as a simple example of the new process’ flaws, I have not received any formal notification or supporting evidence regarding the allegation against me, despite several requests.

Although I remain fully committed to cooperating with the Senate’s investigation in order to allay public concerns, clear my name and move forward representing my constituents, I believe that answers to the questions below are urgently needed for a credible process.

• What is the scope of the Senate’s investigation regarding the allegations that have been made against me or anyone else? Specifically, which persons are being investigated, who is overseeing the investigation(s), which allegations are being investigated, and how has the Senate decided which allegations it will or will not investigate?

• What protections are being considered or currently in place to deter any intimidation and retaliation against victims of sexual harassment currently or in the future? What are we doing now to ensure that victims feel safe enough to come forward, free from blatant coercion or implied threats? I have pending media requests to comment regarding such cases where victims are afraid to come forward.

• Will the Senate release all of its files on past investigations to ensure fairness and transparency? How do the Senate’s current investigatory procedures differ from how the Senate has handled sexual harassment allegations in the past and is there a procedure for measuring whether they are more effective? In the absence of access to the records of previous investigations, the answers are unclear.

• Who is in charge of overseeing the Senate’s investigation? Is it the Rules Committee, the Legislative Ethics Committee, or the Subcommittee on Sexual Harassment Prevention and Response or some or all? Have the committees established new standards for initiating and supervising an investigation, reviewing recommendations from an investigation, and taking remedial action if needed? If not, who will make decisions regarding remediation and what will that process look like? What are these standards? Presently, neither Members of the Senate nor the public have information regarding these issues.

The ad-hoc nature of the current process has the potential to seriously harm the Senate. In my case, the Senate leadership has, without any due process or investigation, taken arbitrary action against me including removing me from leadership positions in November 2017 and then on January 3, 2018 insisting on my taking a leave of absence. These actions are arbitrary in that they seem to only apply to me and not to others who are accused. Worse, the terms of the current temporary leave of absence, the details of which were negotiated by Senate President Pro Tem De Leon and Senator McGuire with me and my staff and memorialized in a letter from my attorney to the Rules Committee counsel have been discarded and seemingly forgotten.

For example, despite our agreement to the contrary, Senate leadership informed the media that I was not to use my Capitol office for limited Senate work to instruct staff on handling pending legislative work in my absence.

More recently, I have been skewered for taking members of the Senate-approved and widely used Young Senators program on an annual tour of Long Beach Harbor. The Young Senators Leadership Program has an annual calendar, announced at the start of the Program year in the Fall, including visits to a variety of economic, governmental and social services providers such as a landfill, a soft-drink production plant, or a juvenile justice facility. The harbor visit introduces participants to the economic, environmental, social and other impacts of the LA/Long Beach port complex on the lives of program participants and their families, communities, the region and the nation. It is one of the more popular parts of the year-long program as it is unique in having participants deal with balancing economic, environmental, and social justice issues locally as well as at large. Young Senators have already committed four months of work to the eight-month program and I felt it would be unfair to cancel the program now because of the unproven allegations against me. None of the participants or their parents have requested such a cancellation.

I have faithfully complied with the Senate Rules Committee and Leadership’s directive not to speak publicly about the allegation against me. However, this compliance has resulted in a one-sided fusillade of innuendo, comments, and demands for action against me. For example, I have had no communication from the Senate or Leadership about extending my Leave beyond January 26. If the body feels that it would increase the positive public perception of the investigation, the issue should be addressed with me directly before the leave expires. Instead, a selective leak and a statement were provided to one reporter on the issue today.

The uncertainty of this ad hoc process is greatly damaging both to me and to the institution. Further damage will undoubtedly occur if this opaque and dark process continues. The Senate must take responsibility for the dearth of leadership and failure to adhere to its own long-established standards of justice and ethical conduct.

Remember, what is happening to me could happen to you.

The Senate is the highest plenary body of our Great State. It should not be driven by the needs of members seeking higher office. It should be driven by clearly established protocols and standards, transparent processes and fair consideration of all individuals including Members and staff. I believe in the integrity of the Senate and your fairness. I trust you will ensure a fair, transparent investigation and a fair resolution.

32nd District

  • Guy Fawkes says:

    This is beyond laughable and becoming increasingly embarrassing. I suggest you save your hypocrisy and do us and yourself a favor and resign!

    “The Senate must take responsibility for the dearth of leadership and failure to adhere to its own long-established standards of justice and ethical conduct.”
    Sadly, you haven’t provided any of those yourself!