California Lawmakers Look For Solution To Sexual Misconduct Problem
By Lemor Abrams
Sexual harassment is the hot topic at the California Capitol on the second day back for lawmakers.
On their first day back, Senator Tony Mendoza (D-Los Angeles) announced he’s taking a voluntary leave of absence on Wednesday as an investigation into his behavior continues.
Now, questions are swirling around one of his colleagues accused of inappropriately hugging his coworkers: state Sen. Robert Hertzberg (D-San Fernando Valley).
Some lawmakers say they want him to go too.
“There’s two senators under investigation, so why only one, and not both?” said state Sen. Joel Anderson (R-San Diego).
But Hertzberg responded in a statement saying there is a difference between him and Senator Mendoza.
“As a lifelong hugger, it has never been my intention to cause any feeling other than warmth and friendship to anyone I have ever hugged. Senator Mendoza has been accused of committing a misdemeanor. He decided to take a leave of absence in light of severe and serious allegations.”
Mendoza is accused of unwanted advances toward former interns. One involves a then-19-year-old who accuses Mendoza of giving her alcohol in his hotel room.
The women behind the We Said Enough campaign, which calls out capitol sexual misconduct, say the actions concerning Mendoza versus Hertzberg highlight the need for reforms.
“Without an independent body consistent definitions and a process, it’s very difficult to determine what rises to the level and what appropriate punishment is,” said Samantha Corbin, Founder of We Said Enough.
Mendoza maintains he’s done nothing wrong. Now he’s asking the state auditor to examine the legislature’s actions.
State Sen. Richard Roth (D-Riverside), vice chair of the state audit committee says, it’s not going to happen.
“There’s a statutory prohibition on such an audit…it’s certainly a unique request,” said Roth.
So what’s next?
Some lawmakers are pushing Senate leadership to share the findings of an independent investigation into harassment, but it’s still unclear if those findings will be made public, and when the investigation will be completed.