Sacramento State University, which operates the state Capitol’s California Senate Fellows program, put director David Pacheco on indefinite leave last fall. This came after accusations that he failed to report then-state Sen. Tony Mendoza’s alleged sexual misconduct toward a young female student. Now, after an investigation, Pacheco is out.
“David Pacheco is no longer employed by the university,” university spokesman Brian Blomster wrote in an emailed statement, declining to provide additional details. Blomster said the university will conduct a search for a permanent replacement.
Assembly Fellows program director Pam Chueh, who has also led the Senate program while Pacheco is on leave, notified Senate Fellows and their chiefs of staff in separate meetings on Tuesday — two weeks after Pacheco’s separation from the university became effective on February 20.
“Thanks for your patience as we work through this transition period,” she wrote in an email after the meetings that was later shared with Capital Public Radio.
Pacheco did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But in an email last fall, he said he “immediately reported” the allegations about Mendoza’s behavior toward the Fellow to Senate Deputy Secretary for Human Resources Jeannie Oropeza. “I acted quickly and appropriately and look forward to being exonerated,” he wrote.
The events that precipitated Pacheco’s departure began in the fall of 2016, when he placed a female student Fellow in Mendoza’s Capitol office — even though, as Capital Public Radio has reported he told a Mendoza staffer at the time, he was aware of the senator’s reputation for inappropriate behavior toward women.
Then, a year later, Pacheco learned Mendoza allegedly invited the Fellow to his home, and offered to drive her to the Cache Creek Casino Resort to spend the night with him. Although Pacheco said he reported the allegations to the Senate, he did not report them to Sacramento State.
The university placed him on indefinite leave in November, shortly after the allegations against Mendoza became public and questions emerged over Pacheco’s response.
Mendoza resigned from the Senate last month as his colleagues weighed votes to suspend or expel him. A Senate investigation had found he “more likely than not” made sexual advances toward six women, including the Fellow.
Bernice Jimenez Creager, a former Senate Fellow who told Capital Public Radio last fall that Pacheco discriminated against her and humiliated her because she was a Latina Republican, praised his departure.
“The primary goal of the fellows programs and everyone involved should be the best interest of the students,” she said. “This decision shows the commitment of Sacramento State to ensure all fellows are provided with a meaningful learning experience in an environment free of hostility, harassment or discrimination regardless of gender, sex, party affiliation and other protected classes.”
The university also announced Tuesday that it has selected a Senate Rules Committee staffer Leonor Ehling to be the next executive director at the Center For California Studies. The center oversees the Fellows programs in the Senate and Assembly, as well as in the executive and judicial branches.
Editor’s Note: The Capital Fellows programs are run by Sacramento State, which holds the license to Capital Public Radio.