Assemblywoman, #MeToo activist takes leave amid sexual misconduct probe

SACRAMENTO -- A state politician who has been a leading figure in the #MeToo campaign and California’s anti-sexual harassment movement now finds herself accused of sexually harassing a male staffer several years ago.

The Assembly has launched an investigation of Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens, and Garcia said Friday she is taking a leave of absence during that investigation.

Assemblymember Cristina Garcia, center, speaks during a meeting on climate change in Herbert on Nov. 3, 2017 (Credit: a58.asmdc.org)

Garcia, who is head of the Legislative Women's Caucus, is accused of two incidents. The first allegedly took place at a softball game in 2014. Daniel Fierro, who was a staffer for another assemblyman at the time, claims Garcia grabbed and squeezed his butt and tried to grab his crotch. He did not report the incident at the time.

Another unnamed lobbyist said Garcia made inappropriate comments towards him and tried to grab his crotch as well at a fundraiser in 2016.

A private law firm hired by the assembly is looking into the claims.

What makes this even more surprising is that Garcia has been an advocate for legislation to protect whistleblowers against retaliation for speaking up. She was honored by TIME Magazine last year -- appearing in their person of the year edition which was awarded to "Silence Breakers."

State Sen. Connie Leyva responded to the allegations, saying Garcia's position as Women's Caucus chair would be immediately called into question. In a written statement, Leyva said:

"Anyone proven to have sexually harassed or assaulted another person, regardless of their gender, should be held accountable for their actions."

Leaders of the "We Said Enough" movement also responded to the allegations on Twitter:

"We are concerned about these reports and they need to be investigated thoroughly, without delay."

The group also called for confidential reporting systems and due process for all involved.

Garcia said in a statement yesterday she does not recall the incidents and will work with the investigation.