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AP Exclusive: Claims Cost California Legislature $580K

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – The California Legislature has paid at least $580,000 since 2012 to settle claims of harassment, wrongful termination and more made primarily by its employees. Documents obtained by The Associated Press through a records request show seven payouts in five years, with six made to Senate and Assembly employees. The last is a $150,000 payment to cover the legal fees of news organizations that successfully sued for access to Senate records. One agreement reviewed by AP forbids Anita Belmontes, a former Senate human resources employee, from speaking negatively about Senate members, a class Loyola Law School ethics expert Jessica Levinson called a clear restriction on her First Amendment rights. Belmontes now works for the Senate Republican Caucus. The Legislature shields its investigation records from public view, but details of some settlements have been previously reported by news outlets including the Sacramento Bee.