State legislators: Sexual misconduct? Maybe. Records? No
TRENTON — A backlash across the country against sexual misconduct by those in positions of power has resulted in dozens of state lawmakers being reprimanded or forced out of office.
But in New Jersey, lawmakers said they had no publicly available records of any such claims or punishment over the past decade.
The Associated Press filed records requests with the legislative chambers in every state — including New Jersey — seeking information on the number of sexual misconduct or harassment complaints.
But New Jersey was among a majority with no publicly available records.
Some officials said even if there were records, they could be exempt from disclosure. The Legislature is broadly exempted from the state's records law.
"Even if we had records relevant to your requests, we believe that many of these requests are invalid because they do not request specifically identifiable government records and instead seek information requiring the custodian to create new records," wrote Kate McDonnell, the Assembly Democratic caucus' general counsel.
New Jersey lawmakers are reviewing their nearly decade-old sexual harassment policy. A spokesman for Democratic Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin said Tuesday that it is still being worked on.
Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg said the Senate is also reviewing its policy.
She did not rule out that sexual misconduct had indeed taken place at some point in time.
The current policy states that all workers are entitled to a work environment free from discrimination. The policy encourages people with complaints to seek out human resources, and it lays out the process under which an investigation would unfold.
The policy calls for maintaining the confidentiality of those involved and exempts documents related to the process from the state's open records law.
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