A Southern California lawmaker on leave amid a sexual misconduct investigation says the allegations against her are a political smear designed to discredit her record.
Democratic Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia denies groping a former male legislative staffer who worked for a colleague in 2014. Meanwhile, accusations that she ran an office rife with alcohol consumption and talk of sex are mounting, with a different former staffer alleging he was fired after complaining when she suggested he play a drinking game after a fundraiser.
Garcia, a vocal leader in the #MeToo movement, ramped up her defense on Tuesday.
She alleged a private investigator began interviewing her former staff members and tenants in the properties she owns last fall attempting to find compromising information. She did not specify who is targeting her.
"I believe these accusations are part of a concerted effort to discredit my person and record as a legislator," she said.
Daniel Fierro, the staff member who accused her of groping, says he has "no idea" about involvement from private investigators. Dan Gilleon, a lawyer representing several former staff members alleging inappropriate office behavior, said he routinely uses investigators but did not say if he used any to look into Garcia.
"I don't talk about what my investigators do (or did)," he said in an email.
Garcia alleges a private investigator began contacting tenants in buildings she owns near Los Angeles in November, asking about her ethics as a landlord. An investigator then contacted her former staff members, asking if they would believe it if she was accused of sexual misconduct or had a problem with alcohol, she alleged.
Garcia's case is the latest in the California Legislature's widening sexual misconduct scandal. The allegations against her surprised many given her role as a leader on women's issues and a vocal proponent of women speaking out about sexual harassment in the Capitol and other workplaces.
Meanwhile, the Senate is determining whether to discipline Democratic Sen. Tony Mendoza, of Artesia, following a sexual harassment investigation. The investigation concluded last week and the 5-member Senate Rules Committee is expected to decide Tuesday whether to recommend discipline.
The full Senate could vote as soon as this week on whether to censure, expel, suspend or reinstate Mendoza.