Crime & Justice

4 California lawmakers accused of misconduct; none punished

California state Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia.
California state Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia.
Rich Pedroncelli/AP
California state Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia.
State Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, talks with Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton, on Wednesday, May 31, 2017, in Sacramento.
Rich Pedroncelli/AP
California state Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia.
Assemblyman Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach.
Rich Pedroncelli/AP
California state Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia.
Left: Autumn Burke as she appears in 2013. Right: Autumn Burke appeared in her mother's arms, then-Congresswoman Yvonne Burke, in a 1974 issue of Ebony magazine.


Four current California lawmakers have faced sexual misconduct complaints since 2006, according to documents released Friday by the state Legislature.

All were told to watch their behavior, ranging from inappropriate comments to unwanted touching, but none were formally disciplined, the documents show.

They are Democratic Assemblywoman Autumn Burke of Los Angeles, Republican Assemblyman Travis Allen of Huntington Beach, Democratic Sen. Tony Mendoza of Artesia, near LA, and Democratic Sen. Bob Hertzberg of LA.

The documents, released in response to media outlets' requests for records, offers the fullest picture yet of sexual harassment and misconduct in California's Capitol. Until now, names of lawmakers facing allegations were only made public if the victims chose to speak out.

Sexual misconduct in the California Capitol grabbed the spotlight in October when nearly 150 women published a letter saying such behavior is pervasive and often goes unchecked. It came amid a national wave of allegations against men in politics, Hollywood and elsewhere.

Mendoza was suspended last week amid an investigation into accusations of inappropriate behavior toward young women who worked for him. One complained in 2010 that he made her uncomfortable by sending her text messages unrelated to work, according to the documents.

Allen, who is running for governor, is accused of inappropriately touching a female staff member in early 2013, according to a heavily redacted complaint. The documents say on separate occasions, he stood uncomfortably close, touched her foot with his and squeezed her shoulders.

The Assembly's chief administrative officer told Allen he had made two women uncomfortable by being overly familiar. Allen was advised "to be very conscious of his conduct."

He did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday but said at the time that he did not recall acting too familiar with staffers. He said he did remember times when two women became overly friendly with him outside the building while at an event.

Burke acknowledged participating in an inappropriate discussion about anal sex after a complaint was filed last year, the documents show. The Assembly's human resources director discussed the inappropriateness of the conversation and the need to maintain a professional office environment, but there did not appear to be other punishment.

Burke, who signed the October letter that sparked the sexual misconduct discussion, said the complaint stemmed from an after-hours discussion in which an aide was sharing a personal story. The complaint was filed by a "disgruntled former staff member," but she took responsibility, she said in a Friday statement.

Hertzberg was accused of grabbing a staff member, dancing and singing to her in 2015. His spokeswoman, Katie Hanzlik, did not immediately comment.

Hertzberg, a former Assembly speaker, is known for greeting people with hugs but recently said he would stop after three female lawmakers, some who weren't named, told the Sacramento Bee newspaper that his hugs made them uncomfortable. His nicknames include "Hugsberg" and "Huggy Bear."

The documents may not provide a full scope of harassment by lawmakers and senior staff members. Critics of the system say many women don't report misconduct for fear of personal and professional retaliation.

Legislative staff members don't have protections if they come forward, although a measure slated to pass Monday would change that.

Two former lawmakers, Raul Bocanegra and Rod Wright, also are named in the documents. Bocanegra, who was a staff member at the time of the complaint, resigned late last year as more allegations emerged.

Read sexual harassment records from the California State Assembly:

Read misconduct records from the California State Senate:

Read Assembly sexual harassment settlements:

This story has been updated.