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City of LA paid $2.5M to settle 7 sexual harassment cases

FILE: Los Angeles City Council members backed proposals Wednesday to set up a hotline and website aimed at making it easier for workers to report sexual harassment cases and improve policies on sexual harassment.
FILE: Los Angeles City Council members backed proposals Wednesday to set up a hotline and website aimed at making it easier for workers to report sexual harassment cases and improve policies on sexual harassment.
Richard Vogel/AP

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Seven sexual harassment settlements with the city of Los Angeles have taken place within the last five years, with the city paying out about $2.5 million to resolve the cases, according to City Councilman Paul Krekorian.

The number of cases of sexual harassment citywide may be undercounted since city officials acknowledge gaps in the reporting and training of supervisors, a problem that emerged during the council's discussion of the topic Wednesday. 

The council unanimously backed a proposal by Krekorian calling for the city to examine the feasibility of a telephone hotline and website to make the reporting of sexual harassment complaints easier for employees. The city Personnel Department was also directed to examine the city's policies on sexual misbehavior to ensure they are "victim friendly" and to submit any recommendations for changes.

The council action follows the recent wave of sexual harassment allegations that have rocked major political, media and entertainment institutions.

On Wednesday came word of the latest fallout — the firing of NBC's Matt Lauer and termination of Minnesota Public Radio contracts with Garrison Keillor, former host of “A Prairie Home Companion.” MPR and Southern California Public Radio are operated by parent company American Public Media.

The L.A. City Council also asked for a detailed accounting of recent sexual harassment complaints reported in the last five years, broken down by department. 

“We don’t have a centralized tracking system,” Wendy Macy, general manager of the city Personnel Department, told council members.

Macy said the city needs to improve its training of supervisors and ensure that there's a more consistent application of the city’s policies on sexual harassment.

She also said the city currently has a one-year limitation on reporting claims, which is “meant to mirror the state requirements.” But she said that the limit “does not preclude us from conducting an investigation” if a case occurred earlier.

Krekorian raised concerns about the one-year limit, saying he didn’t understand it at all. He also raised concerns that managers in departments are not always reporting claims to the city’s personnel officials, leaving gaps in the city’s data.

The council also approved Councilwoman Nury Martinez' amendment calling for a survey of workers on how the city could improve its policies on sexual harassment.

“Something good has to come of these horrific things that have happened to people,” Martinez said, referring to recent headlines on sexual misbehavior cases.

Martinez said she was very concerned about city follow through on reported complaints, detailing a story of a women whose case she said was not satisfactorily resolved.  

This story has been updated.