- The Washington Times - Monday, February 19, 2018

A California state lawmaker who’d been at the forefront of the #MeToo movement has been accused of sexually harassing multiple aides, of firing one for refusing to play “spin the bottle,” and of bragging about having sex with other Assembly members to gain information.

According to Politico and multiple other news outlets, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, Los Angeles County Democrat, has had an employment discrimination case filed against her by an aide whom she fired.

Multiple other former staffers also described in an open letter at the weekend a “toxic” work environment with pervasive sexual harassment and drunkenness.

The complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing was filed by David Kernick, a 38-year-old former Marine. He said he was dismissed for saying that the powerful lawmaker shouldn’t be playing drinking games that involve kissing with about a half-dozen people, several of them her staffers.

The complaint says that “shortly after protesting this sexual harassment,” Ms. Garcia wrote up Mr. Kernick “for insubordination” and then fired him two days later.

According to the filing, Ms. Garcia “was seemingly not critical of [Mr. Kernick’s] work until after he questioned the appropriateness” of the spin the bottle game.

Besides Mr. Kernick, three other ex-staffers wrote an open letter to Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon last weekend saying that Ms. Garcia, who recently headed the chamber’s Women’s Caucus, presided over a “toxic environment” sodden with booze and sex.

“Oftentimes Ms. Garcia pressured staff to join her in drinking alcoholic beverages both at the office and at local bars, including events she was hosting,” the letter states.

The open letter graphically describes complaints of sexual harassment, saying the lawmaker “often spoke, if not bragged, about her sexual activity … in front of staff members.

Ms. Garcia also spoke of her sexual activities with other elected officials including other members of the Assembly who we will not name in respect for their privacy … Ms. Garcia said that having sex with other elected officials was a good way of getting information; she claimed that she received a lot of information during post-coital conversations,” the letter states.

The former aides, three of whom remained anonymous from fear of retaliation, also said in the Rendon letter that “Ms. Garcia commonly and pervasively used vulgar language with, to, at and around staff. For example, she frequently used the ‘C word’ while referring to other women.”

These charges aren’t the first against Ms. Garcia.

The Assembly Rules Committee earlier this month announced it was investigating charges brought by Daniel Fierro, a former aide to another state lawmaker. He accused Ms. Garcia of making a drunken pass at him after the Assembly’s 2014 softball game.

A former lobbyist also told Politico on condition of anonymity last month of another drunken pass made by Ms. Garcia.

After those charges became public, Ms. Garcia went on unpaid leave.

Spokeswoman Teala Schaff told Politico that her boss is on leave until the investigation is over, and “as an employee of Assembly Rules,” she could have no comment.

In a Facebook post, Ms. Garcia said she would comply with investigations and “address each of these issues individually after the investigations into these allegations are closed.”

But “I am confident that I consistently treated my staff fairly and respectfully,” she said.

She also implied that the firing charges were false.

“In a fast-paced legislative office, not everyone is the right fit for every position, and I do understand how a normal employment decision could be misinterpreted,” she wrote.

A former aide was much more direct, telling the Sacramento Bee that Mr. Kernick was warned for “not doing his job,” and “fired when his work did not improve.”

Before the first round of charges broke earlier this month, Ms. Garcia had pushed the feminist line about sexual harassment and complained about being the victim herself.

She signed a Sacramento letter citing the hashtag #WeSaidEnough protesting sexual harassment, and told the New York Times that men had repeatedly assaulted her at the state Capitol in Sacramento.

“Multiple people have grabbed my butt and grabbed my breasts,” she told the Times. “We’re talking about senior lobbyists and lawmakers.”

Her image was even prominently used in the Dec. 15 issue of Time naming the “Silence Breakers” on sexual harassment as the magazine’s Person of the Year.

“I didn’t know I was part of the story,” the assemblywoman tweeted at the time “I’m proud of this work, and proud of the company I’m in,” including the popular hashtags #MeToo and #WeSaidEnough.

Ms. Garcia also crowed on Twitter the week the first charges broke about helping pass the Legislative Staff Whistleblower Protection Act, calling it “essential legislation that was long overdue” and using the hashtags #WeSaidEnough and #TimesUp.

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