California lawmaker accused of sexual misconduct resigns
By JONATHAN J. COOPER and DON THOMPSON, Associated Press
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A California state senator accused of sexual misconduct resigned Thursday just ahead of a possible vote to expel him, delivering a scathing resignation letter that called the investigation process a farce.
Democratic Sen. Tony Mendoza of the Los Angeles area said he may still run for the seat this fall, putting his party in an uncomfortable spot. His resignation letter takes aim at the leader of the Senate, a fellow Democrat and Mendoza’s former roommate in Sacramento who was leading the effort to expel him.
“It is clear that Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon will not rest until he has my head on a platter to convince the MeToo movement of his ‘sincerity’ in supporting the MeToo cause,” Mendoza wrote.
De Leon said the Legislature “won’t tolerate abuse of power and a pattern of behavior that violates our harassment standards.”
Mendoza is the third California lawmaker to resign over sexual misconduct allegations since the #MeToo movement erupted nationally last fall, leading millions of women to share their experiences on social media.
Lawyers investigating complaints against Mendoza, who is 46 and married, found that he likely engaged in unwanted “flirtatious or sexually suggestive” behavior with six women, including four subordinates, a lobbyist and a young woman in a fellowship with another lawmaker.
Several accusations against Mendoza first became public last fall in a report by the Sacramento Bee newspaper. Under pressure from other lawmakers, Mendoza took a leave of absence. Days before he was set to return in January, the Senate Rules Committee suspended him because the independent investigation had not yet concluded.
Mendoza sued for reinstatement last week alleging that the suspension was unconstitutional, among other arguments. He does not plan to drop his legal challenge.
In a letter pleading his case to colleagues Wednesday, Mendoza said he was sorry if anyone was offended by his behavior but continued to deny wrongdoing.
The investigation released Tuesday found he “more likely than not” engaged in behavior such as offering a 19-year-old intern alcohol in a hotel suite at a Democratic event, suggesting a young woman in a Senate fellowship take a vacation with him and rent a room in his house, and asking several women about their romantic lives.
Mendoza argued in his resignation letter that the “more likely than not” was a low standard of proof not meriting a penalty as high as expulsion. He called the Senate’s process “farcical” and unfair.
In the earlier letter to his colleagues, Mendoza denied giving alcohol to an underage intern or inviting a young aide, who worked in his office through a California State University fellowship, to his house under the guise of reviewing resumes. He did not directly address the other findings.
He also pointed out that the investigators didn’t find he was physically aggressive or sexually crude and that in some of the incidents, he reformed his behavior after he was told his advances were unwanted.
Two other Los Angeles-area Democratic representatives, Raul Bocanegra and Matt Dababneh, resigned last fall. Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia took voluntary leave after she was accused of groping.