The Independent Institute on Wednesday gave its latest Golden Fleece Award to the State of California for using $21.3 million in taxpayer cash to settle sexual misconduct claims.
Every three months, the Independent Institute highlights a state or local government spending program, tax, or regulation that fleeces the state’s taxpayers, consumers, or businesses, and bestows a California Golden Fleece Award to highlight waste, fraud, and abuse in government. The award must specifically be for some type of spending, tax, or regulation that would be considered wasteful by people of varying political philosophies.
The 6th Golden Fleece was awarded last week for “public servants” who have committed sexual misconduct abuses or have protected wrongdoers while inflicting injustice and undue burdens on the very people they are supposed to serve by forcing California taxpayers to foot $21.3 million in sexual misconduct settlement in fiscal years 2015–2017.
A press release from the Independent Institute states, “No employee should have to endure sexual harassment in the workplace, as state and federal laws make clear.” But few taxpayers are aware of the scope of the problem, due to “policies that shift the costs of misconduct settlements away from the accused and onto taxpayers, and anti-transparency laws that keep misconduct allegations and settlements out of public view.”
The Independent Institute’s California Golden Fleece award documents that over the three-year period, taxpayer funds were used to pay settlements related to sexual misconduct.
Payments included $15 million by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation; $3.4 million by the University of California; and $2.8 million related to California legislators and their staffs. In addition, about $4 million in settlements for sexual misconduct was funded from insurance policies indirectly paid for by taxpayers.
The Independent Institute blames state laws and practices in California that have impeded the “public’s right to know and likely exacerbate the problems.” The most egregious from a conflict of interest standard is the “Legislative Open Records Act.”
The law exempts the Legislature from having to disclose complaints and investigations of legislators and their staffs for misconduct publicy. It also allows the state legislature to investigate itself and hide the results.
The Independent Institute suggests reforms, including:
1) Taxpayers should not be required to “bear any direct financial cost for sexual misconduct of legislators, their staffs, and other government employees;
2) Nondisclosure agreements tied to sexual misconduct claims against legislators, their staffs, or other government employees should be prohibited;
3) Sexual misconduct complaints and investigations of state lawmakers and government employees should be handled by outside experts; and
4) Government pension benefits for offending parties should be clawed back.
Democrats lost their supermajority in the legislature due to sexual misconduct resignations; they will try to win it back at the polls on Tuesday.