Investigation of senator finds 6 misconduct cases

2018-02-21 09:05
Senator Tony Mendoza stands at his desk after announcing that he will take a month-long leave of absence while an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against him are completed. (Steve Yeater, AP)

Senator Tony Mendoza stands at his desk after announcing that he will take a month-long leave of absence while an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against him are completed. (Steve Yeater, AP)

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Sacramento - A California senator likely engaged in unwanted flirtatious or sexually suggestive behaviour with six women he worked with - including four subordinates - according to an independent investigation released on Tuesday.

The investigation, which was conducted by outside lawyers at the Senate's request, found Democratic Senator Tony Mendoza "more likely than not" engaged in behaviour such as offering a 19-year-old intern alcohol in a hotel suite at a Democratic Party event, suggesting a young woman in a Senate fellowship take a vacation with him and rent a room in his house, and asked several of the women invasive questions about their dating lives.

The investigation does not name any of the women, although some have previously spoken to media. Four worked for Mendoza, while a fifth is a lobbyist and a sixth was a Senate fellow in another office.

Mendoza has been out on suspension during the investigation and did not immediately comment on the investigation's findings.

The Los Angeles-area senator's colleagues will vote as soon as Thursday on whether to censure, suspend, expel or reinstate him. Mendoza will be allowed to defend himself on the Senate floor.

Three other cases

Several accusations against Mendoza first became public in 2017 in a report by the Sacramento Bee as the #MeToo movement took hold in California's Capitol. The investigation outlines three other cases that weren't publicly known.

Mendoza has stubbornly defended himself and sued the Senate last week for suspending him amid the investigation. The investigation cleared him of allegations he fired three staff members who reported his behaviour to the Senate fellow.

One of the former employees has filed a complaint with the state alleging retaliation.

The investigation was conducted over two months, with lawyers interviewing 47 witnesses, including Mendoza, and reviewing available documents.

It found no instances of Mendoza being "physically aggressive" or "sexually crude". But the women "understood that Mendoza was suggesting sexual contact", the report said.

"Although none of the women reported that Mendoza explicitly threatened them or offered career benefits in exchange for sexual favours, the subordinate employees believed that complaining about his conduct could put their careers at risk," said a three-page summary released by the Senate Rules Committee.

Mendoza's conduct has partially ensnared Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, a fellow Democrat who is running for US Senate against Senator Dianne Feinstein.

De Leon and Mendoza shared a house in Sacramento, where Mendoza invited the young Senate fellow to visit and, according to the investigation, move in. De Leon moved out shortly after the allegations became public and has previously said he was unaware Mendoza invited her to the home.

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