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Investigation substantiates allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior by former top Capitol staffer

Investigation substantiates allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior by former top Capitol staffer
The Capitol building in Sacramento. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

A California state Senate investigation has determined that a prominent Capitol public relations strategist probably engaged in sexually inappropriate conduct toward a female subordinate staffer when he worked as a chief of staff.

The investigation report said a "preponderance of the evidence" supported a finding that Adam Keigwin, now a managing director with the public affairs firm Mercury, based in Sacramento, engaged in unwanted touching and explicit talk and exposed himself.

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He denied wrongdoing and said the findings released Thursday against him were false.

"I know I'm not perfect," Keigwin told The Times. "I also know these allegations are completely untrue."

The Senate investigation centers on claims made by a former Senate staffer who worked with Keigwin for several years. The woman, who was identified by a pseudonym, later decided not to participate in the investigation, according to the report. The investigation was conducted by Amy Oppenheimer, an independent attorney hired by the chamber to look into harassment complaints. She interviewed nine people, including Keigwin and the complainant.

Micha Star Liberty, the woman's attorney, said her client asked to withdraw her complaint after speaking with Oppenheimer because of concerns her confidentiality would not be protected.

Liberty said the Senate was "trying to claim some sort of victory in terms of meeting their obligation. It's essentially this body trying to prove that it takes seriously these allegations, yet not taking into account the needs and wants of the people who are complaining."

Still, Liberty said her client was pleased to see her claims substantiated by the investigation.

"Any time a victim or survivor comes forward and tells their story and they are heard and believed, it's meaningful," she said.

Keigwin worked in the Capitol for 10 years, most recently as chief of staff to Democratic Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco from 2009 to 2013. Yee pleaded guilty to corruption charges in 2015 and received a five-year prison sentence.

The woman alleged that Keigwin's inappropriate conduct occurred while she worked in the Senate from 2011 until 2014 and continued after they both no longer worked there. The woman now works as a lobbyist.

The investigation found that it was "more likely than not" that Keigwin, while under the influence of alcohol, engaged in unwanted sexual touching at least once or twice while he was employed by the Senate, although the report does not specify dates or details of the precise incidents.

It also found that Keigwin exposed himself to the woman on one or two occasions, "in association with social events when Keigwin had been drinking."

The report also said evidence supported the allegation that Keigwin engaged in "unwanted sexual conversations" with the woman. It noted that other conversations about sex were equally initiated between him and the accuser.

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As a result of the findings, the Rules Committee said Keigwin is not eligible for future employment with the Senate. The committee also warned that any similar misconduct with Senate employees could result in him being barred from accessing Senate offices or legislative hearing rooms.

The records were released as part of a recent policy change in the Legislature, in which substantiated complaints of harassment will now be made public. The increased disclosure was prompted by intense scrutiny over workplace harassment in the Capitol following the #MeToo movement.

Keigwin said he would "vigorously" defend himself and was in the process of hiring an attorney.

"This issue is core to who I am," Keigwin said, pointing to his past work on behalf of domestic violence and sexual assault survivors. "It is incredibly frustrating to see anyone make such an accusation against me."

Fabian Nuñez, a former Assembly speaker who is now a partner with Mercury, called the allegations "troubling" in an email to staff obtained by The Times.

"We do not and would not tolerate inappropriate behavior toward any employee," Nuñez said. "That said, we are not aware of any complaints against Adam by Mercury employees or anyone else during his time with Mercury."

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

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