Hidden Harassment: Complaints at state Capitol self policed in s - CBS46 News


Hidden Harassment: Complaints at state Capitol self policed in secrecy

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(Source: WGCL) (Source: WGCL)

Under the capitol dome, is a small army of tax-payer paid lawmakers and staff. Who's actions we've learned, are more often than not, self policed, and cloaked in secrecy.

For weeks, we've been probing complaints of harassment or bad behavior made against lawmakers or their staff.

It had us asking lots of questions. But we quickly found, we wouldn't get a lot of answers.

We sent freedom of information act requests, but those requests were quickly denied.

When we visited the legislative counsel's office to question it, he refused an interview.

"We don't know what we don't know."

Richard Griffiths is with the Georgia First Amendment Foundation.

He's talking about the state law that exempts the legislature from open records laws. And allowed for the denial of our request for information.  

"The state legislature has exempted itself from the very things they require of all other governments in the state. That is to be open and transparen't about their operations," says Griffiths.

Such as, the process or results of say, an ethics investigation.  

The ethics committee after all, is where those complaints against lawmakers and their staff go.

And wait---things get mudier.

Some could argue the ethics system itself is rigged.

In the senate--and its similar in the house---a complaint begins at the office of the Secretary of the Senate.

You fill out a form, and it gets reviewed by the ethics committee.

But that committee we've learned, is made up of a handful of lawmakers, some of whom may be the target of the complaint or that person's supervisor.

"We're policing ourselves," says Sen. Michael Williams. He is on the senate ethics committee. And he see's the conflict of interest.

He is calling for investigations to be made public.

We wanted to question the committee's chairman Sen. Dean Burke on recent investigations that were dismissed--some we found had clear conflicts of interest.  

He wasn't in his office when we visited, and didn't respond to multiple requests for an interview.

Bottom line, until something changes, it appears its the fox guarding the hen house. And you and I, arent allowed in.