Sacramento lobbyist Pamela Lopez on Monday formally accused San Fernando Valley Assemblyman Matt Dababneh of pushing her into a bathroom and masturbating in front of her in 2016.
Lopez had first shared the story in October as the wave of sexual misconduct disclosures rolled through politics, media and Hollywood. At the time, she refused to say who it was, but said she was persuaded to come forward to protect other women after an Assembly hearing last week on sexual harassment policies.
What Lopez described at a Monday morning news conference is serious, possibly criminal, sexual misconduct. But what seems more troubling are the allegations made by the woman at Lopez’s side on Monday. Jessica Yas Barker, a Democrat club president from Los Angeles, claimed that while she was a staffer in the district office for Congressman Brad Sherman (D-Porter Ranch) about a decade ago, Dababneh, who was district chief of staff at the time, engaged in ongoing sexual harassment of her and other women in the office.
She accused Dababneh of making jokes about the glass ceiling to women in the office, commenting on their attire and talking about his sexual conquests. Once, she alleged, he showed her a drawer full of condoms. Dababneh’s behavior was “an open secret” in the San Fernando Valley, Barker asserted, and was the reason she decided to leave her job 18 months later.
Lopez’s allegations are the most salacious, but what Barker described — even though it’s just an unverified accusation at this point — calls for immediate action. Not only should the Assembly launch a full investigation, it should suspend Dababneh in the interim. This is appropriate because, like U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr., the complaints suggest a pattern of abuse involving staff.
But it’s not only the Assembly that should be taking a closer look at its ranks. The Democratic Party leadership ought to do the same. Women in the party particularly ought to demand what leaders knew when they supported Dababneh in his 2013 run for the Legislature and threw over a sitting Democratic Assemblywoman in 2016 to back Raul Bocanegra in 2016. Bocanegra resigned last week, just before the L.A. Times printed a story in which a handful of women accused him of sexual misconduct.
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