Sexual harassment allegations against Cristina Garcia not substantiated by Assembly

An Assembly investigation did not corroborate allegations that Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia , according to both the Bell Gardens Democrat and the man who accused her.

“Earlier today I learned that the allegations of unwanted sexual harassment against me were found to be unsubstantiated,” Garcia said in a statement Thursday. “I look forward to returning to work and getting back to the business of representing my constituents.”

Garcia took an after Daniel Fierro, who now operates a political communications firm in Cerritos, said she cornered him at a legislative softball game in 2014, squeezed his butt and attempted to grab his crotch.

An Assembly spokesman declined to comment on the results of the investigation. Kevin Liao said it was not officially concluded because both sides still had ten business days to appeal the conclusion.

SIGN UP

Help us deliver journalism that makes a difference in our community.

Our journalism takes a lot of time, effort, and hard work to produce. If you read and enjoy our journalism, please consider subscribing today.

But Fierro confirmed that he was informed Thursday that his complaint was not substantiated, meaning that the investigator did not determine it was more likely true than not.

“This is disappointing and it still leaves serious questions,” he said. “This process is incredibly opaque.”

Fierro said he had provided witnesses to the Assembly who were never interviewed, including one who he said the investigator never even ed. He said he is working with his attorney on filing an appeal.

“I find it incredibly inappropriate that a sitting member of the Assembly would jump ahead of an established appeal process and release information before it was appropriate,” he said.

The Assembly investigation did substantiate at least three complaints about inappropriate behavior by Cristina Garcia, including that she “disparaged other elected officials,” according to a letter sent Thursday to the lawyer for several former employees who submitted a claim against her.

In February, former staffer J. David Kernick , seeking to sue Garcia for allegedly firing him in 2014 after he refused to play “spin the bottle” with her. His lawyer, Dan Gilleon of San Diego, had days earlier submitted a claim with the Assembly on behalf of four anonymous former employees describing a “toxic environment” of heavy drinking and graphic sexual discussions in Garcia‘s office.

“I want to inform you that three of the complaints you presented on behalf of your clients were substantiated,” Debra Gravert, the Assembly‘s chief administrative officer, wrote in a letter to Gilleon on Thursday.

She said the Assembly found that Garcia had “common and pervasively used vulgar language with, to and around staff” and had asked her staff to perform personal errands, in addition to the disparaging remarks about her colleagues.

Garcia previously admitted in a March interview with KQED that used homophobic slurs against former Assembly Speaker John A. PĂ©rez.

“I would like to sincerely apologize to my colleagues in the Legislature, my staff and most importantly to the residents of the 58th Assembly District for instances where my use of language was less than professional,” Garcia said in her statement. “I want to assure everyone that I have learned from this experience and will do everything in my power to make amends for my past.”

“Nothing is more important to me than protecting the health and safety of the people I represent,” she added. “I know that I can only effectively serve my constituents if staff and my colleagues feel comfortable and respected on the job. That is the climate I pledge to build and sustain.”

Gilleon could not immediately be reached for comment. He has also been critical of the Assembly investigation process and did not allow his clients to be interviewed because he felt that the investigator they hired was not truly independent.

Garcia is up for reelection this year and faces a tough race in light of the allegations against her. Several Democrats in liberal district have announced challenges, and the State Building & Construction Trades Council of California has already put hundreds of thousands of dollars into an .