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California Legislature

Sen. Tony Mendoza says threat of sanctions against him over sexual harassment allegations is premature

Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia), left, talks last year about a pending bill with Sen. Ted Gaines (R-El Dorado Hills). (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia), left, talks last year about a pending bill with Sen. Ted Gaines (R-El Dorado Hills). (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Just hours before a Republican lawmaker will seek a Senate vote to expel him over sexual harassment allegations, state Sen. Tony Mendoza on Wednesday offered his most detailed denial of wrongdoing yet, distancing himself from lawmakers accused of inappropriately touching women.

He called on his colleagues to wait for the results of an investigation before seeking additional sanctions.

Republican Sen. Andy Vidak of Hanford plans to seek a vote on a resolution to expel Mendoza, while Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) has asked Mendoza to take a leave of absence pending the results of an investigation, a request Mendoza has denied.

De León’s chief of staff Dan Reeves said Mendoza’s status will be discussed in closed-door sessions to be held separately by Democrats and Republicans.

“I believe both Caucuses will be discussing Mr. Mendoza situation this afternoon since he has decided to not take a leave of absence as requested by the Pro Tem,” Reeves said. “It would be premature to say what they will conclude.”

Mendoza noted he has been removed from leadership positions, including chairman of the Senate banking committee, pending an investigation by outside attorneys. He said additional sanctions would be premature.

“I am concerned that the Senate and Senate Rules Committee's attempt to implement sanctions against me and its departures from its usual practices are premature and are being applied inconsistently,” Mendoza said three hours before the first Senate session of the new year. “The new investigation and process announced last month have not yet commenced so I see no basis for the Senate to take any action against me.”

Mendoza was removed as chairman of the banking committee in November following allegations from three former aides who said they were fired after complaining to Senate officials about inappropriate treatment by Mendoza of a former female Senate fellow in her 20s.

Three other legislators, including two who have resigned, have also been accused of harassing women.

In his statement Wednesday, Mendoza sought to separate his case from the others.

“The allegations against me, as far as I know, do not involve any form of touching or even suggest inappropriate bodily contact,” Mendoza said. “Unlike others, I have been accused at most of allegedly making someone ‘feel’ uncomfortable. I believe I am receiving unequal application of sanctions, without benefit of a thorough investigation or the due process that I am entitled to receive under both the California and U.S. Constitutions.”

Meanwhile, Mendoza sent a letter to some colleagues asking for a state audit of the process for handling and investigating complaints of sexual harassment, arguing the current system “is not working for either the accusers, or the accused.”

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