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An independent investigation is underway reviewing allegations that the California Senate favors family and friends of Senate administrators during hiring practices.

Five senators, including the senate leader, the future senate leader and the chair of the Senate Ethics Committee refused to comment on camera about the allegations of hiring favoritism on Monday.

Last fall, state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, received an anonymous letter alleging that top Senate administrators are using their positions inappropriately to secure Senate jobs for family and friends. Just in May, accusations of nepotism surfaced again when Sgt. of Arms Gerardo Lopez was found to have cocaine and marijuana in his system during a fatal off-duty shooting at his Sacramento home. Lopez, a 15-year veteran, was not fired until The Sacramento Bee reported about his drug history from court records.

Some critics say Lopez was protected because his mother, Dina Hidalgo is head of human resources for the Senate. At least five of Hidalgo's family members work at the State Capitol.

On Monday, DeSaulnier; Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside; Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles; Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento; and Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, all refused to comment about the nepotism allegations and investigation on camera.

Steinberg says he'll wait the outcome of the ongoing independent investigation to inform whether or not there's any substance to the allegations, and if so, what action is needed.

Roth, the chair of the Senate Ethics Committee, told The Sacramento Bee he hopes the nepotism allegations will focus on whether the positions held by administrator's friends and family members are legitimate and how well the people holding them are doing their jobs.

Investigators have billed the Senate more than $41,000 for their work. The nepotism investigation is being conducted by Heather Irwin of Gordon & Rees law firm, according to Steinberg's spokesperson, Mark Hedlund.

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