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Assemblyman William Brough loses committee assignments after sexual misconduct investigation

Assemblyman William Brough (R-Dana Point) talks with Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron (R-Escondido) in 2016.
Assemblyman William Brough (R-Dana Point) talks with Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron (R-Escondido) in 2016. An investigation has found that Brough engaged in inappropriate conduct with an unidentified woman.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Assemblyman William Brough (R-Dana Point) was removed from all committee assignments Wednesday after a state investigation found he made inappropriate comments and engaged in unwanted touching with an unidentified woman who filed a complaint with the Legislature.

Brough was notified of the findings of the Workplace Conduct Unit panel by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood), who said the alleged conduct was “detrimental to the professional environment of the Assembly and to its employees.”

“I categorically deny harassing or offering political favors to anyone,” Brough said in a statement Wednesday. “I will take the recommended training. I also want to apologize to my family, friends and supporters for putting them through this unfair process. We are looking at legal options.”

Brough, 53, was vice chairman of the Assembly Business and Professions Committee and the Revenue and Taxation Committee. He also was a member of the Assembly Budget and Appropriations committees, among others.

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The Republican legislator was told that he must undergo training in workplace harassment prevention, and that more disciplinary action is possible as legislators confer on the investigative findings.

Four women, including an Orange County supervisor, have accused Brough of unwanted touching and other misconduct, The Times reported in September.

Brough failed to qualify for the November ballot, placing fourth in the primary election, after the California Republican Party withheld its endorsement of his reelection campaign.

On Wednesday, he disputed the panel’s determination that he had violated the Legislature’s policy on appropriate workplace conduct.

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“I disagree with the findings and the politically motivated process. I do not believe the WCU did a complete and fair investigation; they completely dismissed many of the collaborated, factual elements,” Brough said in his statement.

Rendon’s letter to Brough and to the woman who filed the complaint redacted the woman’s name.

“This letter is to notify you that the WCU concluded its investigation of complaints alleging that on more than one occasion you engaged in inappropriate conduct of a sexual nature,” Rendon wrote. “The complaints also included an allegation that on one occasion you impliedly offered political favors in exchange for sexual activity.”

The letter continued: “After considering all of the allegations and facts and based upon a preponderance of the evidence, the panel found that on two occasions you engaged in inappropriate conduct towards [the woman], once verbally and on the second occasion both verbally and physically by placing your hand on the small of [her] back.”

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“The panel also found that on one of these two occasions you insinuated that you would provide political help to [the woman] if [she] went to your apartment with you,” Rendon wrote, adding that “conduct of such a nature cannot, and will not be tolerated in the Legislature.”

Rendon also sent separate letters to two people saying an investigation of their complaints substantiated that Brough engaged in inappropriate conduct.

Brough, who is married, said his opponents “used taxpayer dollars on investigations to remove me from office.”

He said he was targeted for proposing legislation to restrict toll road expansion in Orange County, which he said was followed by a decision to stop planning for a $1-billion extension he termed “unnecessary.”

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Other Republicans were critical of Brough on Wednesday.

Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron of Escondido said she respects the outcome of the investigation.

“The behavior outlined in the investigation cannot be tolerated,” Waldron said in a statement. “Mr. Brough has been removed from his positions on Assembly committees and I am working with the speaker on next steps.”

California Republican Party Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson said it was “truly disheartening and distressing” to learn the results of the investigation.

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Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett told The Times last year that she’d had a negative encounter with the lawmaker in which he allegedly propositioned and “attacked” her at an official event in 2011 when they were both on the Dana Point City Council.

“The fact that [he] was first ousted by the voters and is now being held accountable by his peers not only delivers justice for his victims, but also hope for others who may be unsure about coming forward,” Bartlett said in a statement Wednesday.


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