Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Members of Congress receive skimpy sexual harassment training

The U.S. Capitol

Alex Brandon/AP

Sexual harassment training is not required on an ongoing basis for lawmakers on Capitol Hill

If you work as a supervisor for a private company in California, it’s likely you’ve had several hours of training on how to identify and prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. 

That’s not the case in Congress. 

The spotlight is now on human resource practices on Capitol Hill because most of the allegations of sexual harassment aimed at San Diego Mayor Bob Filner occurred when he was serving in Congress. But those elected officials receive a minimal amount of training around sexual harassment.

New members of Congress attend an orientation on how to hire a staff, set up a website and how to negotiate ethics rules. Sexual harassment is mentioned in general terms, but no specific training is mandated for lawmakers. And members who are re-elected may never hear it again.

L.A. Democrat Lucille Roybal-Allard has served in Congress for two decades. She says all members should get sexual harassment training, but particularly her male colleagues who don't "understand the difference between certain actions that they may consider — for lack of a better way of putting it — a friendly gesture, which from the standpoint of a woman would make them uncomfortable or feel like harassment."

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Attorneys seek limited isolation for mentally ill inmates

California Health Care Facility (CHCF)

Julie Small/KPCC

The California Health Care Facility in Stockton (seen here under construction) will soon be open and is expected to house some mentally ill inmates currently kept in prison isolation units.

This year Gov. Jerry Brown asked a judge to dismiss a decades-old lawsuit that established federal oversight of mental health care in California prisons. But U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton rejected the motion, and the governor’s move blew the case wide open.

In one of the related issues, attorneys for inmates are now seeking to limit the amount of time prison officials can keep mentally ill inmates in isolation units.

California prison officials use Security Housing Units and what's called "administrative segregation" to keep tight control of hard-core inmates, including those whom they identify as prison gang leaders or accomplices.

But more than 3,000 of the men and women who are isolated also suffer from mental disorders.

An attorney for some of those inmates, Michael Bien, said at a Wednesday court hearing in Sacramento that the isolation exacerbates their conditions and may contribute to the high suicide rate in California’s prisons.

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LADWP changes sick day policy, requires doctor’s note

Mercer 1324

Patricia Nazario/KPCC

DWP workers have recently been criticized for overuse of sick days.

Under fire over employees’ seeming abuse of sick days, the general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power on Wednesday issued a new policy requiring a doctor’s note for workers who are off the job for more than two days.

Employees must “present a written medical certification from a health care provider…verifying the necessity of the use of sick time,” DWP General Manager Ron Nichols said in a department-wide bulletin.

Nichols acted less than a week after the Los Angeles Times reported the DWP has paid employees more than $35.5 million for 103,802 extra sick days. The paper reported the paid days off were beyond the agency's nominal 10-day-a-year cap on sick days.

“This move will help eliminate abuse of the current policy that we found by a very small fraction of employees – estimated at about 1-to-2 percent,” DWP spokesman Joseph Ramallo said in a statement. He added the department has a relatively good track record on sick days.

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Maven's Morning Coffee: LA County fires social workers, Police Commission sends racial profiling to mediation, Q&A with Mike Bonin

jann_on/Flickr Creative Commons

The L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services fired four social workers for serious lapses that led to the torture and death of an 8-year-old Palmdale boy.

Good morning, readers. Welcome to the Maven's Morning Coffee -- a listing of the important headlines, news conferences, votes and announcements you need to know to fuel up and tackle your day.

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Today is Wednesday, July 31, and here is what's happening in Southern California politics:

Headlines

Los Angeles County fired four child welfare workers who officials say were responsible for serious lapses that led to the death of an 8-year-old Palmdale boy, reports the Los Angeles Times. "There were so many red flags in this case that just didn't go heeded," said Philip Browning, head of the Department of Children and Family Services.

The Police Commission approved a three-year pilot program that would allow police officers and individuals who accuse them of racial profiling to enter into mediation, according to the Los Angeles Times. "The initiative is the latest effort by LAPD officials to rethink the way the department addresses an accusation made hundreds of times each year — that an officer targeted someone for a traffic stop or some other type of detention because of that person's race," per The Times.

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Valley councilman wants to install free Wi-Fi citywide

Los Angeles City Councilman Bob Blumenfield

Grant Slater/KPCC

L.A. City Councilman Bob Blumenfield wants to install free wireless Internet throughout the city of Los Angeles. Former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa pushed a similar plan in 2007.

How might a newly installed L.A. City Councilman from the outer reaches of the San Fernando Valley quickly make his mark?

How about by proposing to equip the entire city of Los Angeles with free wireless Internet.  

Councilman Bob Blumenfield chairs the Innovation, Technology and General Services Committee. His proposal would make Los Angeles the largest city in America to implement a Wi-Fi program.

"We live in a world where success is increasingly tied to ability access to information," Blumenfield said. "Los Angles has already made great strides towards enhancing government openness through technology, from live simulcasting of council meetings to the MyLA311 mobile application. Providing universal access to the Internet is a natural and necessary extension of these efforts.”

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