SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Four current California lawmakers have faced sexual misconduct complaints since 2006 but none was disciplined, according to documents released Friday by the state Legislature.
Their conduct ranged from inappropriate comments about sex to unwanted touching. The lawmakers were told to watch their behavior, while 11 legislative staffers targeted by complaints were mostly fired or suspended.
The lawmakers sought to minimize the complaints, either calling them blatantly political, a reflection of poor record-keeping or the result of disgruntled former employees.
They are Democratic Assemblywoman Autumn Burke of Los Angeles, Republican Assemblyman Travis Allen of Huntington Beach, Democratic Sen. Tony Mendoza of Artesia, near LA, and Democratic Sen. Bob Hertzberg of LA.
“I’m sure I’ve shaken many people’s hands, tapped many people on the shoulder, and have even tapped people’s feet accidentally. But there has never been anything in any of my actions that has been inappropriate, and nor will there ever be,” said Allen, who is running for governor and called releasing the complaint against him about inappropriate touching a “political attack.”
The Senate and Assembly revealed the documents in response to requests from The Associated Press and other media outlets. They offer the fullest picture yet of sexual harassment and misconduct in California’s Capitol, but it may be incomplete.
Many women say they don’t report misbehavior for fear of retaliation, and the documents don’t include allegations when investigations were not completed. In the Assembly, 62 allegations have been made against lawmakers and staff since 2006, according to additional documents given to the Los Angeles Times.
“The selective release of data related only to certain individuals serves only to further erode the trust that so many victims and survivors hope to rebuild,” according to a statement from the group We Said Enough.
The group launched an October 2017 letter from nearly 150 women saying sexual misconduct is pervasive and often goes unchecked at the California Capitol. It came amid a national wave of allegations against men in politics, Hollywood and elsewhere.
A heavily redacted complaint says Allen inappropriately touched a female staff member in early 2013. On separate occasions, he stood uncomfortably close, touched her foot with his and squeezed her shoulders, the documents said.
The Assembly’s chief administrative officer told Allen he had made two women uncomfortable by being overly familiar. Allen was advised “to be very conscious of his conduct.”
Burke acknowledged participating in an inappropriate discussion about anal sex after a complaint was filed last year, the documents show. The Assembly’s human resources director discussed the need to maintain a professional office environment.
Burke, who signed the October letter, said the complaint filed by a “disgruntled former staff member” stemmed from an after-hours discussion in which an aide was sharing a personal story.
“I recognize my obligation to ensure a safe and comfortable work environment for everyone in my office, and I think every claim needs to be taken seriously,” she said in a statement Friday. “However, I believed then and still believe that the complaint was motivated by the former staff member’s anger over being terminated.”
Hertzberg was accused of grabbing a staff member, dancing and singing to her in 2015. A former Assembly speaker, Hertzberg has nicknames like “Hugsberg” for his frequent hugs as greetings. He said he would stop late last year after three women told the Sacramento Bee newspaper that his hugs had made them uncomfortable.
He criticized the Senate’s record-keeping, noting a summary page about the complaint was written Friday, according to its time stamp.
“The fact that some records were written today and others were handwritten proves the point that the Legislature’s HR practices are problematic,” he said in a statement. “I remain committed to working on solutions that will instill faith in the Capitol as a safe and accountable workplace for all.”
Mendoza, meanwhile, was suspended last week until an investigation wraps up into allegations he acted inappropriately toward young women who worked for him. The documents include a 2010 complaint from a staff member when Mendoza was in the Assembly.
The documents also reference two lawmakers — Matt Dabaneh and Raul Bocanegra — who resigned last fall after allegations emerged. A previously known 2009 complaint against Bocanegra was included in the documents.
Staff members, meanwhile, are accused of lewd sexual comments and behavior, including having pornography on work computers and inappropriate touching.
Senate staffer Eric Worthen was fired in 2011 for making sexual comments to a co-worker, then appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown to the California Department of Veterans Affairs.
Brown’s office said it didn’t know about the complaints. Worthen was later indicted in a corruption scandal that put his old boss, former Sen. Leland Yee, in federal prison.
By KATHLEEN RONAYNE
Associated Press writers Jonathan J. Cooper and Don Thompson contributed reporting.