An outside investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against California Sen. Tony Mendoza has found that six women likely “experienced unwanted flirtatious or sexually suggestive behavior” by the lawmaker.
A summary of the report’s findings was released on Tuesday by Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León’s office. It comes after the Senate Rules Committee met in closed session to discuss Mendoza for the second weekday in a row. Read the full report here.
Four of the six women accusing Mendoza of unwanted sexual advances were former staffers — including one intern and one Fellow — who “believed that complaining about his conduct could put their careers at risk,” according to the report. The other two incidents included a different lawmaker’s Fellow and a lobbyist, both in 2015. The report says the incidents ranged from 2007 to last year.
The report summarizes six incidents where Mendoza “more likely than not” made “unwanted flirtatious and sexually suggestive behavior” toward women. This includes allegedly asking a former staffer to share hotel room with him in Hawaii in 2007.
“None of these women alleged that they had a sexual relationship with Mendoza or that he had been physically aggressive or sexually crude towards them,” the summary states. “However, the recipients of this unwelcome behavior understood that Mendoza was suggesting sexual contact.”
The report also says Mendoza was counseled by Assembly Human Resources about his behavior toward a staff member following a 2010 complaint, and that he “subsequently confirmed his conduct.”
In a statement, Mendoza says he's "extremely concerned" over an investigation that sets a "dangerous precedent" and violated his civil rights and due process.
The Senate Rules Committee “refused to provide me any opportunity to even review the findings or to offer my side of the story,” his statement reads. “The Committee had never provided me any charges, the basis for the charges, a list of witnesses or access to any evidence used against me, or an opportunity to make a response to the investigative findings.”
In an apparent warning to his colleagues who are now weighing his fate, the senator notes that the only lawmakers ever to be expelled from the California Legislature were convicted of felonies. “This raises the stakes for future perceived infractions by members of this body,” the statement reads.
The summary of the outside investigation provides new details about Mendoza’s conduct toward his 2017 Senate Fellow, who is in her mid-20s.
The investigation found he “more likely than not” asked her personal questions that he did not ask other staff members; and suggested that they could take a vacation together, that she rent a spare room in his house, and that they could have stayed together in a single hotel room during an overnight event.
It also found that “on more than one occasion, including at night,” Mendoza invited the Fellow to his home “under the guise of reviewing resumes” for a job in his office. The Fellow was applying for the job, as well — even though “he had little intention of hiring her,” the report states.
However, the investigation did not find evidence that three former Mendoza staffers were fired because they reported the senator’s behavior toward the Fellow.
“We learned that there were pre-existing conflicts among members of Mendoza’s Capitol and District offices,” the report states, “and that any concerns relating to potential sexual harassment issues had not come to the attention of Mendoza or Senate Human Resources prior to September 22, 2017.”
The investigators interviewed 47 witnesses during its process, including more than a dozen current and former Mendoza staffers. They interviewed the lawmaker on two occasions.
The report was delivered to the Senate Rules Committee late last week. The five-member group, chaired by De León, convened in closed session on Friday to review the findings of the weeks-long investigation, which was presented by Legislative Counsel Diane Boyer-Vine and an outside attorney who represents the Senate.
Committee members digested the report over the weekend and met again Tuesday to decide on the path forward.
Democratic and Republican members caucused separately on Tuesday afternoon. Rank-and-file members now have the opportunity to read the report in the Legislative Counsel’s office before they caucus again on Wednesday at lunchtime.
The Rules Committee is scheduled to also meet again on Wednesday in open session, and could formally recommend disciplinary action to the Senate floor at that time. Options include censure, suspension — with or without pay — or even expulsion.
De León’s office has said any disciplinary action recommended by the group would be debated by the full Senate on Thursday morning.
Mendoza previously faced allegations of inappropriate behavior involving three women — the 2017 Senate fellow and also two former staffers. The lawmaker agreed to take a month-long, paid leave of absence on January 3, pending the investigation. When the Senate later voted to extend his leave, Mendoza filed a lawsuit claiming unfair treatment.
The only time the Senate has expelled a member was in 1905, when four senators were removed for malfeasance of office amid bribery and corruption allegations. The Assembly has never expelled a lawmaker, although two previous efforts failed.