The state Senate Rules Committee said Thursday that an investigation is underway into complaints from former aides to state Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) who have alleged that the lawmaker invited home a female legislative fellow who asked for a job.
In addition, Cal State Sacramento, which runs the legislative fellows program, said Thursday it is investigating whether one of its female fellows assigned to the Legislature was sexually harassed.
The Sacramento Bee cited multiple anonymous sources Thursday in reporting that Mendoza had invited the unidentified fellow from his office to review résumés at his home after she asked for a permanent job. The newspaper reported that two Mendoza aides met with Senate Rules Committee staff and detailed allegations that Mendoza engaged in a pattern of inappropriate behavior with the fellow.
Mendoza denied acting improperly.
“I would never knowingly abuse my authority nor intentionally put an employee into an awkward or uncomfortable position,” he said in a statement Thursday.
The senator “recalls an offer of assistance to review the fellow’s resume and help with the fellow’s job search, which he would offer any employee,” said spokesman Saeed Ali.
Ali said that the unidentified fellow never went to the senator’s home and that the senator did not invite her to a party or to stay at his hotel room for a golf tournament, as was outlined in the Bee’s story.
“If I ever communicated or miscommunicated anything that made an employee feel uncomfortable, I apologize,” Mendoza said Thursday.
Senate Secretary Daniel Alvarez said he could not comment on details of any complaint.
“What we can say is that Senate Rules takes any allegation of inappropriate workplace behavior extremely seriously — and this is no different,” Alvarez said. “These allegations are being rigorously reviewed and investigated consistent with our legal process, employment standards and privacy protections — and has been for months.”
Alvarez said the Mendoza aides were already terminated before any complaint was made.
“There was no connection between their termination and the subsequent complaint,” Alvarez said.
In September, Mendoza fired chief of staff Eusevio Padilla, legislative director Adriana Ruelas and scheduler Stacey Brown. Ali, the senator's spokesman, told The Times then that the firings had to do with Mendoza getting new committee assignments and needing staffers with more expertise in those areas.
A statement from Cal State Sacramento said: “We were just recently made aware of the allegations of sexual harassment of one of our Fellows. The University takes its obligations to protect its students and employees seriously, and we are in the process of investigating any violations of University policies.”
Padilla and Brown now are assigned to the staff of Sen. Henry Stern (D-Canoga Park) and did not respond to requests for comment. Padilla deferred calls earlier this week to the Senate human resources office.
Stern said he hired the two aides because of their talent as part of an open recruitment process. He said Thursday that he is upset by the daily news stories alleging inappropriate behavior by state officials.
“I’m kind of frustrated here,” he said. “There are too many secrets in the Capitol right now. It’s got to end. Every day it seems like some new revelation emerges, and I want our employees to feel safe, and our lobbyists to feel safe, and interns and fellows.”