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No More Hugs: California Sen. Bob ‘Huggy Bear’ Hertzberg Disciplined After Investigation

Rich Pedroncelli / AP Photo

State Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, faces allegations of inappropriate behavior.

Rich Pedroncelli / AP Photo

The California state senator known as "Huggy Bear" has been ordered to refrain from initiating any more hugs — but he will be allowed to keep his job.

Southern California Sen. Bob Hertzberg has been officially reprimanded by the Senate for hugging or otherwise touching three people who work in the building, including two female lawmakers.

A letter of reprimand released today by the Senate Rules Committee says Hertzberg was investigated by outside counsel for hugging a former assemblywoman — Linda Halderman, who is not named in the letter — in 2010, in addition to two current female legislators.

The investigation also includes a new allegation: that Hertzberg allegedly bumped into the Senate sergeant-at-arms in a way that was “unwelcome and offensive.”

It found that Hertzberg “danced briefly” with his “backside” up against the sergeant-at-arms.

But the law firms that investigated the claims found that the majority of hugs from Hertzberg were "not unwelcome" and the motivation was "not sexual in nature."

The findings also note Hertzberg was not provided with details of previous complaints until recently, and that he had expressed remorse.

The 2010 allegation by Halderman was not substantiated; the letter states that a former assemblywoman did not make herself available to the outside investigators for interview.

Hertzberg issued this statement this morning. “After two months of thorough investigation, the claim brought forward in December was not supported. Even so, I understand that I cannot control how a hug is received, and that not everyone has the ability to speak up about unwelcome behavior,” Hertzberg wrote in a statement. “It is my responsibility to be mindful of this, and to respect the Rules Committee’s request to not initiate hugs.”

If he does continue to hug colleagues, there will be tougher discipline, according to the letter.

Senate Rules members Kevin de Leon, Tony Atkins, Anthony Cannella and Tom Berryhill signed the letter of reprimand. Sen. Connie Leyva did not. Her office refused to comment as to why.

The Senate retained law firms Gibson, Dunn Crutcher LLP and Van Dermyden Maddux Law Corporation to perform the investigation.


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