Sun, Aug

Sexual Harassment: Is LA City Hall a Safe Work Space for Its Employees?

LA WATCHDOG--Ever since The New York Times broke the story on October 4th about the sexual harassment and rape allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, numerous other victims have surfaced, naming not only Harvey Weinstein, but other Hollywood predators, including filmmaker Brett Ratner, actor Kevin Spacey, and director James Toback. And no doubt there will be others who have used their power and status to prey on those lower down on the food chain.  

But sexual misconduct is not confined to the Hollywood casting couch. The news director of National Public Radio and the publisher of The New Republic are now history.  Three tenured professors at Dartmouth are now on paid leave and are under criminal investigation for alleged sexual misconduct by the New Hampshire Attorney General.  And no doubt more to come.  

In less than transparent Sacramento, almost 200 women, including lobbyists, staff members, and even elected officials, have signed a letter “denouncing a culture of rampant sexual misconduct” and demanding the end of the mistreatment of women in politics.  Even today, complaints of sexual harassment are met with intimidation and retaliation by the male dominated leadership who claim they support women’s rights in the workplace (as long as it is not apply to them). 

We now have a situation where constituents of Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra (photo left) (D-San Fernando Valley) are calling for hi  s resignation because of his harassment of a fellow Sacramento female staffer in 2009 when he was the chief of staff for then Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes. But this incident, which just recently exposed because of the “We Said Enough” campaign, was covered up by the Assembly’s leadership who later supported Bocanegra’s political career. 

In Los Angeles, City Hall has been relatively free of publicity involving sexual harassment scandals. This is despite many well-founded rumors of misconduct by selected current and past Councilmen and other persons of authority hitting on women and men who were and still are intimidated by the male dominated establishment and fear retaliation and the loss of their jobs.  

There is also the high-profile case of Councilman Jose Huizar (photo right) and the litigation filed by his well-paid chief of staff alleging sexual harassment.  While Huizar eventually acknowledged the affair, the terms of the settlement were not made public even though the staffer received extraordinary raises and promotions, that the City paid for the “love door” between their offices, that hanky-panky is rumored to have occurred on City property, and that campaign or office holder funds may have been used to pay for clandestine rendezvous.  

To prevent sexual harassment and abuse, the Mayor and the City Council need to establish an independent, well financed entity that will investigate all claims from City employees, including workers in the three proprietary departments (Department of Water and Power, the Port of Los Angeles, and Los Angeles World Airways).  This independent entity must treat any complaint in confidence and protect the employee from intimidation and retaliation, a common complaint of the victims.  This entity must be independent of the Ethics Department and the politically appointed Ethics Commission.  

In the meantime, we need to answer the question of whether our local Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra (D-San Fernando Valley) and City Councilman Jose Huizar (D-CD 15) should resign from their elected positions.

(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and is the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council.  He is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate.  He can be reached at:  [email protected].)