An Orange County lawmaker who inadvertently broadcast explicit remarks about his sexual conquests over an open microphone abruptly resigned from office Wednesday after legislative leaders stripped him of his committee posts and launched an ethics probe of his actions.
Assemblyman Michael Duvall (R-Yorba Linda), whose remarks were videotaped in July during a lull in a Sacramento hearing, stepped down less than 24 hours after the tape spread online Tuesday night.
In the video, the married family-values crusader from Yorba Linda talks in graphic detail about women he said he slept with -- at least one of whom appeared to be a lobbyist with business before the utilities committee on which Duvall sat as vice chairman.
“I am deeply saddened that my inappropriate comments have become a major distraction for my colleagues in the Assembly,” Duvall said in a written statement Wednesday afternoon. “It would not be fair to my family, my constituents or to my friends on both sides of the aisle to remain in office. Therefore, I have decided to resign.”
The sudden scandal was one more bruise for Sacramento as it lurches toward Friday, the end of a particularly unproductive legislative year, with unfinished work on such major issues as the prison crisis and the state’s wobbly water infrastructure.
And the speed with which Duvall was pushed out the door was small comfort to Capitol-watchers who say the case shows the persistence of anything-goes behavior in the Legislature.
“The use of sexual favors is just one more example of the tactics that energy companies and lobbyists have used to win favorable laws from lawmakers,” said Kathay Feng, president of California Common Cause.
As TV camera crews chased lawmakers through Capitol corridors for comment on the scandal Wednesday, the place was abuzz with gossip: other lawmakers with lobbyist mistresses, inappropriate invitations to romantic dinners, married legislators and industry officials canoodling at fundraisers and after-hours mixers.
Duvall, some said, just happened to get caught.
His remarks were videotaped during a July hearing of the Assembly Appropriations Committee and aired on a KCAL television news program Tuesday night. In the video, the socially conservative Duvall tells fellow Assemblyman Jeff Miller (R-Corona) in uninhibited detail about trysts with two women, neither his wife.
The KCAL report says one of the women is a lobbyist for a major utility with business before Duvall’s committee. In the video, Duvall says her birthday is July 6. That matches the birth date of a Sacramento lobbyist for the San Diego-based energy firm Sempra.
Sempra issued a written statement saying that it is investigating the matter, but that its “employee has denied the speculative media reports.”
On the tape, Duvall describes the “little eye-patch underwear” worn by one of the women. He refers to the age gap between her and him, after a recent birthday made them 18 years apart. “Now, you’re getting old, man, I am going to have to trade you in,” he said he told her.
And he mentions a second woman, in less detail.
“Cher, Shar, Shar -- oh, she is hot. I talked to her yesterday. She goes, ‘So are we finished?’ ” Duvall says, adding that he replied no. He continues: “And I go, ‘You know about the other one, but the other one doesn’t know about you.’ ”
The Capitol Resource Institute, a conservative, self-described “pro-family” advocacy organization that had given Duvall a 100% score for his voting record on issues of concern to the group, denounced the lawmaker in a statement.
“It is always disappointing when a champion of traditional values does not practice the same in his private life,” said Karen England, executive director of the institute.
Some GOP leaders were relieved by the resignation.
“Sticking around for a while would have just prolonged the agony, and he would have had the same result,” said Scott Baugh, Orange County Republican Party chairman.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger now has 14 days to call a special election to fill Duvall’s seat, which could be held as soon as the first week in November. Orange County officials say that election will cost taxpayers between $330,000 and $440,000.
Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) said the Legislature plans to aggressively investigate Duvall and any conflicts of interest that may have resulted from affairs he boasted about. One member of the legislative ethics panel that will oversee the inquiry said privately that there may be efforts to broaden it to include other lawmakers alleged to have intimate relations with lobbyists.
California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown declined to comment on calls from consumer advocates that he launch a criminal investigation. Duvall’s “votes on utility issues should be investigated to determine whether they were compromised,” said Doug Heller, executive director of Consumer Watchdog in Santa Monica.
Duvall joined other Republicans in voting several times this year against renewable energy measures opposed by Sempra Energy. The measures would require utilities to derive significantly more electricity from solar, wind, geothermal and other renewable energy sources by 2020.
In Orange County on Wednesday, Duvall’s constituents expressed shock.
Placentia Councilwoman Constance Underhill said Duvall’s behavior was outrageous, especially if his dalliances were with lobbyists who had business with his committee. “If that’s true,” she said, “he sold out for sex.”
Bob Bowdish, 62, who said he was once Duvall’s letter carrier and has for years crossed party lines to vote for the assemblyman, said, “The public deserves more. . . . The fact of the matter is, what he did was wrong. This will ruin more than his political career.”
At least one resident saw opportunity in the mess, however. “He did the right thing under the circumstances,” said Orange County Supervisor Chris Norby. “He did it quickly. And I’m going to do the right thing. I will be seeking the seat.”
Times staff writers Eric Bailey, Dana Parsons and My-Thuan Tran contributed to this report.