In light of the sexual harassment charges that have encircled the legislature, last month Assemblyman Kevin McCarty said he would introduce a bill that would require convicted sexual harassers to pay out of their own pocket instead of taxpayers compensating victims. McCarty’s bill should go further to protect taxpayers.

Taxpayers are also victims when sexual harassment by government officials leads to settlements out of the public purse. But it is not only the payouts to the victims that cost taxpayers money. Investigations by outside law firms looking into potential harassment are also done on the taxpayers’ dime.

With the accusations made by lobbyist Pamela Lopez against Assemblyman Matt Dababneh, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon announced the assembly would be hiring an outside law firm to investigate the allegations. When sexual harassment charges were made against Sen. Tony Mendoza, senate president Kevin de León declared that the senate would hire an outside law firm to look at the charges against Mendoza.

Taxpayers pick up those legal bills.

Dababneh and Mendoza both deny the allegations made against them. They must have due process and the opportunity in court if necessary to answer the charges. We cannot abandon the rule of law and convict in the court of public opinion merely on accusations.

However if, in the end, an individual (not the government nor the taxpayers!) is found to have made unlawful advances and/or assaults or used their positions of power to seek sexual favors, the taxpayers should not be the second victim in the sordid action.

As Assemblyman McCarty suggests, “If violators know they would be on the hook financially — not just taxpayers and the government — maybe they’d change their behavior.”

McCarty might consider the applicability of covering all governmental entities throughout the state and add the extra-legal billing costs to his legislation.

Certainly, the taxpayers should not cover any settlements for illegal or unethical behavior. Neither should taxpayers bear the cost of outside legal investigations if a perpetrator is found guilty.