OAKLAND, CA — California taxpayers have been exploited as piggy banks to settle claims against state employees for sexual misconduct, but the public has been kept in the dark about abuses and settlements. For this reason, the Independent Institute has named this unjust system winner of the sixth California Golden Fleece® Award, given quarterly to government employees or programs that violate the public trust.
The report examines the use of taxpayer money to settle sexual harassment claims against California lawmakers and government employees, as well as their cloak of secrecy: nondisclosure agreements and laws that give public officials special privileges to hide the truth.
“The use of power to shield the truth from the public is a common pathology of government,” said Independent Institute Senior Fellow Lawrence McQuillan, Ph.D., creator and director of the California Golden Fleece® Awards. “Transparency and accountability are central to any well-functioning organization, especially governments,” he added.
The lack of transparency is not unique to California. At the federal level, a law ironically named the Congressional Accountability Act, established an account in 1995 to pay sexual harassment settlements, which shielded lawmakers from disclosure and personal financial responsibility.
To effect meaningful change, the report says, California must enact a broad set of reforms that are aligned and integrated with a system that provides due process for the accusers and the accused. While due process is a key pillar of America’s legal tradition, another must also be properly accommodated: transparency.
McQuillan says California should ban the use of taxpayer money to settle sexual misconduct claims against legislators, their staffs, and other government employees. Laws must also provide transparency regarding sexual misconduct complaints and investigations.
The Independent Institute is a non-profit, research, and educational organization that promotes the power of independent thinking to boldly advance peaceful, prosperous, and free societies grounded in a commitment to human worth and dignity. For more information, visit www.independent.org. For media inquiries, contact Communications Manager Rob Ade: firstname.lastname@example.org; (510) 632-1366, ext. 114.