The most infuriating part about the California State Senate's reported $120,000 payout on behalf of Senator Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood) last year -- just now revealed by the Los Angeles Times -- is that officials are treating it like nothing out of the ordinary.
Wright was accused by former
aide district coordinator Fahizah Alim of sexual harassment in the workplace.
A spokeswoman for Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) tells the Times that such secrecy is the norm for "personnel issues" like Wright's.
But when the taxpayers write your checks, it seems reasonable enough to let them know they're cleaning up your "personnel issues" for you, right? Especially when those issues extend into the realm of dirty sexual-deviance claims, about which the voters have a history of giving a very large damn. (If Bill Clinton, Anthony Weiner, Herman Cain, etc. are any indication.)
The top-secret payout, approved at a closed-session Senate meeting, "is totally unacceptable,'' Lew Uhler of the National Tax Limitation Committee tells the Times. "When the taxpayer is asked to pay those funds, then the taxpayer has the right to know those details.''
State officials apparently don't agree:
Asked why taxpayers, rather than individual lawmakers, fund the payouts, [Steinberg's spokeswoman] said the complaints and their resolution are matters "between employer and employee," and the Senate is the employer.
The Senate routinely settles such claims privately, with confidentiality clauses that leave taxpayers in the dark. In 1975, the Legislature broadly exempted itself from the California Public Records Act, determining that "records of complaints to or investigations conducted by . . . the Legislature" need not be disclosed. The exemption applies to the Assembly as well as the Senate.
Wow. Sweet deal! Kind of reminds us of that little loophole in the law against insider trading, through which our elected officials graciously exempt themselves.
Alim, the woman who reportedly collected $120,000 in the sexual-harassment settlement, is a well-known face around Sacramento/SoCal government offices -- she was working for Senator Carol Liu of La Cañada at the time of the payoff. (Just a hop-skip across Los Angeles from Wright's district, though lightyears more WASPy in demographic. But wait! Wright was also charged, last year, with six felony counts of voter fraud for pretending he lived in Inglewood while sitting pretty in Baldwin Hills. Dude can't seem to stay out of trouble.)
And it appears Alim currently works for Senator Curren Price, another Inglewood representative.
One last fun fact about the Wright accuser: She was aboard the Carnival Splendor, the infamous cruise ship that recently found itself stranded for days off the coast of Mexico after a boiler-room fire. She gave extensive interviews about the horrific (!) conditions on board:
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Fahizah Alim of Sacramento said the ship's crew "tried to get creative" with the limited cold food, which included Spam, Pop Tarts and canned crab meat. "The more creative they got, the yuckier it got," Alim said.
Perhaps the same could be said of Wright?
Sorry, that was low. We're just not all that pleased with the thought of funding some Sacramento horndog's (alleged) slimy urges, then having to find out about it almost a year later from a still-cloudy Times report. Anyone want to man up and tell us what we just paid for? Feel free to use explicit detail.