State Sen. Holly Mitchell refuses to meet with a sexual harassment victim

A sexual misconduct settlement could threaten #MeToo progress at California Capitol

State Sen. Holly Mitchell talks to the media about a proposed sexual harassment settlement with the state of California at a press conference on May 24.

State Sen. Holly Mitchell talks to the media about a proposed sexual harassment settlement with the state of California at a press conference on May 24. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

The California Senate Ethics and Elections Committee considered the future of one of its own last week.

That is when a top-ranking state senator admitted to the sexual harassment allegations against her former communications director, a man now a deputy district attorney in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office.

The settlement proposal, however, could have repercussions for the #MeToo movement.

“The #MeToo movement is such an integral part of our community, it’s going to be hard to see how we move forward with our state if we allow the harassment to continue,” said Sen. Holly Mitchell, a Democrat from San Jose, whose district includes a large tech hub.

For months, Mitchell has been the only state senator to refuse to meet with a sexual misconduct victim to discuss the allegation. She called instead a legislative crisis conference on sexual harassment and other sensitive issues.

Now her office is drafting a proposed settlement with her former communications director, Josephine Liu, that would prohibit him from working as a deputy district attorney in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office for three years.

The deal would include a payout that could total nearly $100,000, or one-third of his yearly salary as deputy district attorney, according to state legislative sources.

Mitchell’s decision is being hailed largely because she refuses to participate in a settlement that could end up paying her as much as $25,000 to resolve her allegations.

“I’m proud of my decision, especially for a woman who has had a hard time with her career, who has had to work hard over the last three years, who didn’t get a pay raise last year and is still struggling for time to pay bills because of my decision,” she

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