California Senate hires lawyers and a consultant to examine sexual harassment allegations

California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León will hire two outside firms to look into allegations of a widespread culture of sexual harassment in the state Capitol.

De León announced Monday he has hired the law office of Amy Oppenheimer to conduct an external investigation into harassment and assault allegations, and the consulting firm CPS HR Consulting to review Senate policies on harassment, discrimination and retaliation.

The Senate leader also sent letters to lobbyists in the Capitol community detailing how existing rules protect non-employees, as well as a letter to senators saying the focus on harassment “requires both reflection and action.”

"There's always more employers can do to protect their employees," De León said in a statement. "Everyone deserves a workplace free of fear, harassment and sexual misbehavior and I applaud the courage of women working in and around the Capitol who are coming forward and making their voices heard.”

The women behind an open letter sent last week calling out a “pervasive” culture of mistreatment in the political field said that De León's actions were insufficient.

More than 140 women, including legislators, Capitol staff, political consultants and lobbyists, signed the letter.

"To find the truth and rebuild trust, we need a truly independent investigation, not a secretly hand-picked self-investigation," said Adama Iwu, a government affairs director for Visa who spearheaded the campaign. "We need full transparency. How was this firm selected? Who will they report their findings to? What exactly are they investigating? Is the Assembly involved?"

Dan Reeves, De León’s chief of staff, said the two firms were selected based on the recommendation of the state Senate’s outside employment counsel.

Meanwhile, the women who have signed the letter, who have coalesced into a group called We Said Enough, announced they were formalizing their advocacy efforts on Monday by launching a nonprofit organization.

The group plans to hold forums to "outline a plan of action for improving how harassment and abuse complaints are reported, investigated and addressed."

“The current structure has — and continues — to fail,” the group said in a news release. “Decades of structural harassment and abuse cannot be repaired with a quick fix.”

melanie.mason@latimes.com

Follow @melmason on Twitter for the latest on California politics.

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Female lawmakers, staffers and lobbyists speak out on 'pervasive' harassment in California's Capitol

Updates from Sacramento


UPDATES:

8:35 p.m.: This article was updated with a statement from Dan Reeves.

This article was originally published at 2:15 p.m.

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