Female Democrat state assemblywoman and prominent #METOO campaigner who appeared in Time will take unpaid leave of absence following accusations she touched a young male aide’s crotch at a softball game
- California Democratic Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, 38, announced she will take a leave of absence after she was accused of molesting a young male aide
- She was accused of stroking Daniel Fierro’s back, squeezing his buttocks and trying to grab his crotch
- All said to have happened in dugout of a legislative softball game back in 2014
- Daniel Fierro was 25 when he claims he was sexually harassed by Cristina Garcia
- Her photo appeared in Time Magazine’s Person of the Year issue for #MeToo
A California Democratic assemblywoman who is a prominent female campaigner in the #MeToo movement has taken a leave of absence following allegations she groped a male aide.
Cristina Garcia, the head of the Legislative Women’s Caucus and a leading figure in the state’s anti-sexual harassment movement, is accused of inappropriately touching Daniel Fierro, a staffer from another lawmaker’s office, during a softball game in 2014.
‘Upon reflection of the details alleged, I am certain I did not engage in the behavior I am accused of.
‘However, as I’ve said before, any claims about sexual harassment must be taken seriously, and I believe elected officials should be held to a higher standard of accountability.
‘Therefore, I am voluntarily taking an immediate unpaid leave from my position in the State Assembly, including any accompanying committee assignments, so as not to serve as a distraction or in any way influence the process of this investigation.
Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (pictured), has been accused of sexual harassment by a younger, male aide and will take an unpaid leave of absence from her post as the allegations against her are investigated’I implore the Assembly Rules Committee to conduct a thorough and expeditious investigation, and I look forward to getting back to work on behalf of my constituents and for the betterment of California,’ Garcia, 38, said in a Friday statement that used similar language to one she issued Thursday.
Fierro said Thursday that Garcia stroked his back, squeezed his buttocks and attempted to touch his crotch in a dugout after a legislative softball game in 2014.
Garcia, whose photo appeared in Time Magazine’s Person of the Year issue on being one of the ‘Silence Breakers’ on sexual harassment, is now being investigated by the Assembly.
Daniel Fierro said Thursday that Garcia stroked his back, squeezed his buttocks and attempted to touch his crotch in a dugout after a legislative softball game in 2014
Garcia, whose photo appeared in Time Magazine’s Person of the Year issue on being one of the ‘Silence Breakers’ on sexual harassment, is now being investigated by the Assembly. She is not pictured on the cover
Fierro didn’t report it at the time but in January told his former boss, Democratic Assemblyman Ian Calderon, who reported it to Assembly leaders.
Garcia’s spokeswoman Teala Schaff said the assemblywoman learned January 23 a complaint was filed but was given no details and only learned the specifics of the allegations from Politico, who first published the accusation.
‘Every complaint about sexual harassment should be taken seriously and I will participate fully in any investigation that takes place,’ the Los Angeles-area lawmaker said in a statement Thursday.
‘I have zero recollection of engaging in inappropriate behavior and such behavior is inconsistent with my values.’
The investigation into Garcia is one of many in statehouses nationwide following a wave of sexual misconduct allegations against men in power since an October expose of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
Fierro said he decided to tell Calderon about the incident because of Garcia’s outspokenness in the #MeToo movement, which references the social media campaign used by millions to tell personal experiences with sexual harassment.
‘If the person leading the charge on it isn’t credible it just ends up hurting the credibility of these very real stories,’ Fierro said.
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, a Democrat, said in a statement he is directing human resources to reach out to Garcia’s staff to make sure they feel safe.
‘I trust that while the investigation proceeds, Assemblymember Garcia will respond appropriately and in a way that fortifies the Legislature’s effort to create a new climate,’ he said.
Fierro, who was 25 at the time, said he was interviewed by an outside law firm hired by the Assembly Rules Committee last Friday.
A lobbyist who declined to be named claimed Garcia made crude sexual comments and tried to grab his crotch at a 2017 fundraiser, according to Politico.
Garcia was elected in 2012 and has carved out a name as a champion of women’s issues and environmental health for poor communities and chairs the Women’s Caucus.
Democratic Senator Connie Leyva, co-chair of the women’s caucus, said she was ‘shocked and disturbed’ at the allegations and she will ask the group to meet soon to discuss Garcia’s fate as leader.
Garcia’s photo was featured in Time Magazine’s Person of the Year issue on being one of the ‘Silence Breakers’ on sexual harassment.
In October, she tweeted: ‘I refuse to work with (Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra) and anyone who takes part in harassment or assault,’ after it was reported Bocanegra had been disciplined in 2009 for groping a colleague.
Bocanegra later resigned after more women made public accusations.
Garcia was a fierce advocate for legislation signed by Governor Jerry Brown on Monday giving legislative staff members whistleblower protections for reporting sexual misconduct or other misbehavior.
She spoke at a rally on the Capitol steps after its passage and tweeted repeatedly about the importance of sexual consent in recent days.
Fierro and the lobbyist said it appeared Garcia was inebriated at the time of the encounters.
In a November interview about alcohol-fueled fundraisers and other after-work events that are a part of regular business in Sacramento, Garcia said blaming alcohol isn’t an acceptable excuse for sexually inappropriate behavior.
It’s men who chose to misbehave, not the social events themselves, that create the problems, she said.
‘I would say that most of the public realizes that our job is based on relationships, and so we are expected to go out there and socialize,’ she said.
‘I think our public also expects us to hold ourselves to a higher standard.’
The Assembly committee said last week that eight allegations of sexual harassment are pending in the Assembly but did not divulge any names.
Debra Gravert, the chief administrative officer, didn’t respond to an email seeking clarification whether Fierro’s allegation is one of the eight pending.
Fierro said he was contacted by Rules several days after telling Calderon about the incident for an initial interview before speaking with outside lawyers for more than an hour last week.
Fierro, of Cerritos, left the Assembly in 2016 and now runs a communications firm. Calderon, his former boss, is now the majority leader.
Lerna Shirinian, Calderon’s communications director, said Fierro told her about the incident right after it happened.
‘He was in shock, I was in shock – but the culture was very different back then,’ Shirinian told Politico.
Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus who has been at the forefront of the movement against sexual harassment in the state Capitol, has herself become the subject of allegations of sexual misconduct. The Bell Gardens Democrat said she would “participate fully” in an investigation.
Politico reported Thursday that two men said Garcia made improper advances toward them. One, a former legislative staffer, said Garcia groped his back and buttocks and attempted to grab his crotch during a legislative softball game in 2014.
The former staffer, Daniel Fierro, told his former boss, Assemblyman Ian Calderon (D-Whittier) about the incident several weeks ago, his office said. Calderon then reported the incident to the Assembly Rules Committee.
Fierro told the Times he decided to speak out because he thought Garcia’s behavior was at odds with the #MeToo movement, which could harm the cause she was so closely associated with.
“I have female colleagues who have been through way worse than me,” Fierro said. “That conversation needs to be had. …If their stories are being taken less seriously by people in the district because the messenger is not credible, that’s a problem.”
In a statement, Garcia said the details of the complaints only came to her attention on Thursday. She confirmed she did attend the legislative softball game in 2014, but added she has “zero recollection of engaging in inappropriate behavior,” which she said was inconsistent with her values.
“Every complaint about sexual harassment should be taken seriously and I will participate fully in any investigation that takes place,” Garcia said.
Politico reported about a second accusation from a lobbyist who was not named in the story. Politico reported the lobbyist said Garcia attempted to grab his genitals and made an explicit sexual proposition at a 2017 event.
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon confirmed there is an investigation and said in a statement, “I trust that while the investigation proceeds Assemblymember Garcia will respond appropriately and in a way that fortifies the Legislature’s effort to create a new climate. As in other cases, while the investigation moves forward, I am also asking Assembly Human Resources to reach out to Assemblymember Garcia’s staff to ensure they feel safe in their work environment.”
Garcia, one of the most outspoken legislators in the #MeToo movement, now finds herself facing criticism from colleagues. State Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino) called the allegations “very troubling.”
“I have consistently voiced my strong opinion that any legislator under investigation by either the Assembly or Senate should take an immediate leave of absence until the review is completed,” Leyva said in a statement. “As Vice Chair of the Women’s Caucus, I will be asking that the membership of the Caucus meet in the very near future to discuss the fate of Assemblymember Cristina Garcia as Women’s Caucus Chair.”
We Said Enough, the advocacy group that grew out of an open letter signed by more than 140 women—including Garcia—decrying the culture of harassment in California politics, said in a statement the organization was “concerned about these reports and they need to be investigated thoroughly, without delay.”
“The Legislature must establish a confidential reporting mechanism, with due process for accusers and the accused, early intervention and restoration for the entire community,” the group said.