California Legislature

NOV. 27, 2017, 9:08 A.M.

State Sen. Tony Mendoza booted from leadership posts pending sexual harassment investigation

Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) was suspended Monday from leadership positions pending an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

The Senate Rules Committee voted Monday to strip state Sen. Tony Mendoza of his leadership positions, including chairmanship of the banking committee, pending the outcome of an investigation into sexual harassment allegations by three women against the Democratic lawmaker from Artesia.

Holding an emergency meeting before the Senate resumes regular session in January, the bipartisan, five-member Rules Committee voted without comment to suspend Mendoza as chairman of the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee and as a member of the state Commission for Economic Development and the California Workforce Development Fund. Mendoza was not present for the vote.

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), who chairs the Rules Committee, said recently that the suspension, and plans to hire an independent, outside law firm to investigate complaints of sexual harassment, are necessary to increase the safety of employees and protect whistleblowers.

“Like many in our Caucus, I’m deeply troubled by the quantity and specificity of accusations against Senator Mendoza -- and have therefore determined that Senator Mendoza should be suspended from Chairmanships, boards and commissions until the independent investigation into his conduct is complete,” De León said.

Mendoza, who did not attend Monday’s meeting, has denied sexually harassing former employees and a young woman assigned to his office by the Senate Fellows program.

Three former Mendoza employees allege they were fired after bringing concerns about the senator’s behavior with a 23-year-old fellow to the attention of supervisors. Senate leaders said the aides were dismissed for other reasons before they made any complaints.

One fired employee, according to her attorney, told supervisors that Mendoza had invited the fellow to his house on two occasions to work on her résumé as she looked for a new job, and that he also invited her to stay with him at his hotel during a political event. She said she refused his offer.

In addition, a 19-year-old intern told Senate officials that Mendoza provided her with alcohol in his hotel room in Anaheim during a political convention in 2008, according to the Sacramento Bee. The newspaper also reported that former Mendoza aide Haley Myers complained that the senator invited her to one-on-one meals and a weekend political event at Pebble Beach even though she was married. The Bee reported Mendoza also sent Myers after-hours text messages.