Investigation finds California senator likely sexually harassed subordinates

Tony Mendoza

State Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) engaged in “unwanted flirtatious or sexually suggestive behavior” toward six women, four of whom were his subordinates, according to the findings of an outside investigation.

During the investigation, the law firms Gibson Dunn and Van Dermyden Maddux found it was more likely than not that Mendoza engaged in flirtatious and sexually suggestive behavior with a female staffer in 2007; offered and drank alcohol with a 19-year-old intern in a hotel suite in 2008; and made unwanted advances on a staff member in 2010 and on a Senate fellow in 2017. The law firms also concluded Mendoza more likely than not engaged in sexually suggestive behavior with a lobbyist and flirtation with another fellow.

Last fall, amid the onset of the “Me Too” movement, allegations surfaced that Mendoza engaged in sexual harassment and misconduct involving three former employees over the last 10 years. In one case, Mendoza allegedly engaged in inappropriate behavior with a 23-year-old Sacramento State student and fellow working in his office, whom he allegedly twice invited to his home to go over her resume for a full-time position.

Additionally, Mendoza fired three staffer members on a single day last September. Mendoza was accused of firing the staffers for reporting the sexual harassment allegations, but the independent investigation found it was more likely than not the staffers were fired for reasons unrelated to sexual harassment complaints.

Mendoza’s case prompted a policy change in the Senate in which sexual abuse, assault and harassment complaints now requite investigations conducted by outside law firms.

Following a two-month investigation that included 51 interviews with 47 witnesses, Gibson Dunn and Van Dermyden Maddux turned over their findings to the state. A five-member Senate Rules Committee then held closed-door meetings to discuss the findings and possible action against Mendoza.

It is now up to the Senate to determine how to discipline Mendoza. Senators could vote to censure, suspend, expel or impose other sanctions on their colleague.