California #MeToo advocate hit with new claims of misconduct

2018-02-16 07:22
Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia speaks at the Capitol in Sacramento. (Rich Pedroncelli, AP, file)

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia speaks at the Capitol in Sacramento. (Rich Pedroncelli, AP, file)

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Sacramento - California Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, a vocal #MeToo leader, faces fresh allegations of misconduct in her office, including frequent discussions about sex and alcohol consumption at the Capitol.

San Diego lawyer Dan Gilleon filed a formal complaint on Wednesday with the Legislature detailing the allegations on behalf of four anonymous former employees in Garcia's office.

The complainants allege that Garcia regularly talked about her sexual activity, including with other members, in front of staff.

READ: Man accuses California #MeToo leader of sexual misconduct

They also allege Garcia drank alcohol while doing official Assembly business and pressured staff to join her in drinking at the office or at bars.

Garcia, in a Facebook post, said she will address each of the issues individually once an investigation has been completed. But she said the claims don't square with the atmosphere she worked to create.

"I am confident I have consistently treated my staff fairly and respectfully," she wrote.

Leave of absence

Garcia took a leave of absence last week following news she is being investigated for allegedly groping a colleague's former staff member Daniel Fierro in 2014.

The allegations against her marked a stunning twist to the California Legislature's widening sexual harassment scandal that first broke in 2017 and prompted two assemblymen to resign.

A joint committee, which launched in January in response to allegations of rampant and pervasive harassment at the Legislature, will have its second meeting Thursday and hear from legal experts to discuss how to create effective policies.

The nine-member legislative committee has largely avoided commenting on specific allegations against lawmakers, but its members have offered blistering criticism of a system they say is clearly broken.

Garcia, a Democrat representing southeast Los Angeles, has been a vocal leader of the #MeToo movement and a fierce advocate for women's issues.

She had been the chair of the Legislative Women's Caucus before she took her leave of absence. Caucus members voted on Wednesday to install Democratic Assemblywoman Susan Eggman as the interim chair.

Garcia has authored numerous bills about sexual assault, activity and consent; issues which current staff members said are discussed in the office when relevant.

No physical contact

Gilleon, who has represented clients in past high-profile sexual harassment cases such as the case against former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, said his clients would co-operate with an investigation but do not want their names to be public at this time for fear of retribution.

"My clients will vigorously defend what they have said, but I will insist that the Assembly takes serious steps to ensure their protection against reprisal," Gilleon said in a letter he delivered to the Assembly Rules Committee after a press conference on the Capitol steps.

None of the new complaints involve physical contact, but Gilleon said the former employees considered Garcia's frequent talk about sex a form sexual harassment.

In addition to the sexual harassment, the letter also alleges Garcia created a hostile work environment by being "vindictive" toward staff and abused her authority by asking her staff to perform personal duties, such as taking care of her dogs.

The letter also alleges Garcia asked staff members to help with campaign activities for her and other lawmakers on state time.

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