Assemblyman Tony Mendoza, looks at the vote tally on the Assembly floor on February 11, 2010. Hector Amezcua hamezcua@sacbee.com
Assemblyman Tony Mendoza, looks at the vote tally on the Assembly floor on February 11, 2010. Hector Amezcua hamezcua@sacbee.com

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Capitol Alert

Happy holidays from Sen. Tony Mendoza – and other statements on sexual harassment allegations against him

By Amy Chance

achance@sacbee.com

November 29, 2017 02:40 PM

UPDATED November 29, 2017 06:55 PM

Sen. Tony Mendoza has penned a holiday letter to “neighbors, family and friends” following allegations that he engaged in inappropriate behavior with three women he has worked with over the years.

Here’s what he had to say:

The climate across our country has changed! Regrettably, serving your interest has become more challenging as the current national climate has become strained given the issue and discussions of workplace environments. Along with the tense climate has come a series of accusations and revelations regarding the behavior of some Legislators. A number of these accusations are unsubstantiated and arise years after the incidents allegedly occurred, causing some to jump to conclusions without the benefit of a complete and thorough investigation. Unfortunately, I have been the subject of such claims regarding my tenure while representing your interests. It is most unfortunate that some media have looked to capitalize on the national climate and chosen to generate news that is controversial in order to gain rating shares allowing them to sell expensive time to advertisers.

I recently became the subject of vague allegations. In my case, I first heard from the media that a terminated employee made an allegation against me during a routine exit interview. I immediately contacted the Senate Rules Committee (the Senate's Human Resources department) seeking information and guidance. The Rules Committee directed me, verbally and in writing, to refer all media inquiries to its staff as it was a personnel matter. My inability to respond has allowed innuendo, smears, and the settling of political scores to play out in the media while I am constrained by the Rules Committee restrictions. I was pleased to learn that the Senate has recognized that the current process is broken and needs to be fixed immediately.

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I am hopeful that the recent allegations will be addressed fairly and transparently. The Senate Rules Committee announced recently that it will install a new, independent outside legal team to handle all employee concerns. Fairness and due process is all that I ask. It is the pillar of our American system and I am confident that a fair process will reveal that the allegations are baseless.

In the meantime, I continue to be fully committed to serving you by ensuring the same level of quality service you have come to expect and that I have always provided you, your families and your neighbors.

Finally, I would like to take this time to wish you and your family the best for a safe and joyous holiday season. Here's wishing you all the joys and wonders of the holiday season and may this festive season fill your life with bright and precious moments...and bring you lots of blessed and wonderful surprises.

It was the fifth statement Mendoza has made detailing his side of the story. Here are the others:

November 7 - Responding to questions in writing from The Bee about allegations that he invited a Senate fellow seeking a job to his home to go over her resume, Mendoza said this:

I am (a) strong advocate for gender protections in the workplace and maintain an absolute zero-tolerance policy on workplace harassment. Public servants must lead by example, and I would never knowingly abuse my authority nor intentionally put an employee into an awkward or uncomfortable position.

Providing a safe, respectful, productive and professional workplace for all our employees is paramount to me.

Question: At a party at the Mix, did you tell the fellow in your office that she could come back to your house to go over her resume that night this year?

Answer: Generally speaking, I would offer assistance to any of our employees seeking higher-ranking positions in ours or other offices.

November 8 - In response to follow-up questions from The Bee, Mendoza said this:

As I said before, I always strive to treat my staff with the utmost respect while holding them to the highest standards. As such, I would never knowingly abuse my authority nor intentionally put an employee into an awkward or uncomfortable position. If I’ve communicated or miscommunicated anything that has ever made a female employee feel uncomfortable, then I am deeply embarrassed and I will immediately apologize.

November 16 - Mendoza responded to allegations from Haley Myers, who said she told the Assembly in 2010 that Mendoza engaged in behavior that she considered sexual harassment when she worked as a legislative aide for him in Sacramento. She said Mendoza repeatedly sent her text messages, some late at night with comments such as “thinking of you” and ending with a smiley face.

I welcome the Senate Rules Committee announcement earlier this week that it will install a new, independent outside legal team to handle all employee concerns. I am hopeful that the recent unsubstantiated allegations in the media will be addressed fairly and transparently. The current process has been opaque and unjust.

In my case, I was not even aware of any hint of any concerns. When I first heard about it from the media on November 6, 2017, I contacted the Senate Rules Committee (the Senate’s Human Resources department). I was shocked to learn that an allegation had been made by a terminated employee during a routine exit interview. Rules Committee directed me, verbally and in writing, to refer all inquiries from media to its staff as it was a personnel matter.

Senate Rules has not yet provided me any information about any allegation. This is wrong as it has allowed innuendo, smears, and the settling of political scores in the media while I am constrained by the Rules Committee direction. Therefore, I am pleased that the Senate has recognized that the current process is broken and needs to be fixed immediately.

I am committed to fully responding to any allegations through a fair and transparent process that will help restore the confidence that Californians demand from policy makers and policy institutions.

I can vouch for the fact that the Legislature can take action and successfully address even a hint of any concern. In 2010, while serving in the Assembly, I was approached by the Assembly Rules Committee staff regarding one of my employees. I discussed the matter and made a strong commitment to correct any misunderstanding and reinforce my commitment to ensuring a friendly and professional atmosphere. The employee continued to successfully work in my office until I left the Assembly in 2012. The employee and I have had a friendly relationship since then where we have shared family, professional and personal matters in our subsequent, respective lives. As recently as last summer, I provided a recommendation letter for the former employee for a new job in academia. I was happy to do so.

This past Assembly experience gives me confidence that the Senate could also create and use a fair, equitable and transparent process to immediately address such matters.

November 17 - Mendoza responded to a statement from Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, who said he would ask the Senate Rules Committee to strip Mendoza of his leadership posts.

The Senate’s announcement today following my request Thursday, November 16 that the process should be expedited is welcome. I look forward to the independent process.

I understand the decision to temporarily suspend me from certain Senate appointments until the investigation is complete serves to eliminate any perception of favoritism or bias. I remain optimistic that the process will be fair, independent and transparent, and upon the conclusion of the investigation, I expect to be vindicated from these unsubstantiated accusations.

I want to assure my constituents that I will continue to provide them with the full measure of service that they have expected and received from my office. My goal is to continue bringing state programs and resources to my district to improve their overall quality of life. As before, I will also continue to be available to assist them.

'There are perpetrators...and enablers in this building'

Christine Pelosi, chair of the California Democratic Party Women’s Caucus, said news of sexual assault or harassment at the Capitol is largely shared through a 'whisper network' but not reported. Video courtesy of The California Channel.

Dan Smith The Sacramento Bee