The California state Senate, behind closed doors, approved a $120,000 payout to settle a sexual harassment charge against Democratic senator Rodney Wright of Inglewood. The charges were filed against him by a former staff member. The $120,000 settlement was agreed upon in April of 2010, after the two attorneys met in private mediation. The former aid, Fahizah Alim was reassigned to another democratic Senate office, after stating the work environment for Ms. Alim was, "totally inappropriate" and completely "intolerable."
Ms. Alim's attorney, John Poswell, went on to say that the behavior displayed by Senator Wright was "…beyond anything anyone would expect of a public official, or any employer of the 20th century!" The spokesman for Senator Wright declined to make a statement in response to that, and simply said they could not discuss what they described as a personal issue. Many would believe that the personal issue stopped when public monies were used for the payment of the public settlement.
The money was payed to the victim, Ms. Alim, out of a publicly funded trust, called the Senate operating fund. The payout was approved in a closed door session, where reporters and cameras are not allowed. That, sadly, was not the only funds payed out for sexual harassment cases using public tax-payer money. Another $89,500 was payed to a former aid of a different senator, named Carol Liu. The charges or motions filed against her does not state the name of the victim or the type of sexual harassment experienced.
Ms. Alim's attorney, John Poswell, admitted that the money paid was out of tax-payer funds, but agreed with the senator and courts that she would not discuss the matter openly or on public record. That small detail makes one wonder if it is due to a confidentiality clause that, if broken, could result in the forfeiture of the money paid. This practice of keeping the public in the dark on why money is being spent on a private citizens court costs, instead of the public good, makes government watchdogs bark very loudly.
One in particular is the California Common Cause. They stated, "There are sensitive personnel matters around this, but there should have been some sort of notice that these funds were going to be appropriated," said Phillip Ung, the spokesman and policy advocate for the C.C.C.
It goes without saying that this isn't the first time public funds have been used to pay off a private sexual harassment case. In 2005, the Democratic Assembly agreed to payout another $118,000. reportedly, this is due to Senator Rebecca Cohn creating a "sexually charged and hostile work environment." Again, in 2000, the lower house approved nearly $150,000 to a woman who claimed she was being sexually harassed by her supervisor, Assemblyman Lou Papan, also a Democrat.
Many of these sexual harassment charges and payouts could easily be avoided if every member of congress is required to take a sexual harassment education course. It will open their eyes and their minds to what is acceptable in today's standards of political correctness. The aids they work with should also be required to take these classes, that way they know what constitutes sexual harassment and what doesn't. That alone can save the country, and individual states, hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars.