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Council Orders Guidelines on Investigations of Harassment : Probe: Action is in response to Nate Holden's request for a lawyer to defend him. City Personnel Department can launch inquiries, but it has no power to discipline violators.


With one of its members facing sexual harassment charges, the Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday asked city bureaucrats to draw up procedures for investigating sexual harassment charges against elected officials.

The action, taken unanimously and without discussion, was prompted by Councilman Nate Holden's request last week for the city to provide him with a lawyer at taxpayers' expense to defend him against sexual harassment charges.

No decision has been made on Holden's request. But council members said his request put them in an awkward position because they had no independent means of learning whether the charges against Holden are true.

"Everybody expressed a great deal of frustration that we don't have a mechanism to investigate, and if there is a problem found with an elected official, to do something about it," Councilwoman Ruth Galanter said.

The city Personnel Department can review sexual harassment allegations against elected officials but has no place to refer the matter in the city hierarchy for formal action because council members answer to no one except voters. As a result, complaints against elected officials are referred to state or federal authorities for formal investigation.

The measure approved Wednesday asks the city legislative analyst, Personnel Department and the Commission on the Status of Women to study the possibility of bringing sexual harassment allegations against elected officials to the City Council president or to the full council.

But that process could be fraught with political problems. "You can't have council members investigating each other," Galanter said. "The potential for political vendettas is just overwhelming."

Holden, who has denied the harassment allegations, joined the rest of the council in voting for the measure Wednesday. But he said in an interview afterward that he believes the city already has adequate procedures to investigate sexual harassment complaints. Holden has argued that the city is obligated to hire a lawyer for him because the harassment allegations, made by former aides, stem from his employment with the city.

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