National News

Tony Mendoza, California Lawmaker, Resigns Over Sexual Harassment Claims

Posted February 22, 2018 7:15 p.m. EST

LOS ANGELES — The #MeToo movement continued to convulse California’s halls of power Thursday as Tony Mendoza, a powerful Democratic state senator, resigned from the Legislature after an investigation into allegations that he had made improper advances toward several women.

Mendoza, 46, a former elementary school teacher from Los Angeles, was the third California lawmaker to resign amid the national conversation about sexual harassment, which has toppled powerful figures in Hollywood, politics, the news media and other industries.

His resignation came just as fellow lawmakers were preparing to vote on whether to expel him from the Senate or suspend him without pay. He had been on leave since January.

Mendoza has denied the allegations and apologized to anyone who had ever felt uncomfortable in interactions with him. He left office Thursday with an incendiary resignation letter that blasted his colleagues and questioned the legitimacy of the three-month investigation into his conduct, saying he was not given “any opportunity to defend himself.”

He took particular aim at Kevin de Leon, the leader of the Democratic-controlled Senate, who is running for the U.S. Senate in a bid to unseat the incumbent, Dianne Feinstein. De Leon and Mendoza were once roommates, and their relationship had put an unwanted spotlight on de Leon’s actions — and on what he may have known about Mendoza’s conduct.

Mendoza wrote in his resignation letter that de Leon “will not rest until he has my head on a platter to convince the MeToo movement of his ‘sincerity’ in supporting the MeToo cause.”

The allegations against Mendoza arose last fall. Two law firms were hired to investigate. A four-page summary of their findings was released on Tuesday. According to the summary, investigators determined that it was “more likely than not” that Mendoza, who is married, had engaged in a pattern of inappropriate conduct.

It said witnesses had reported “a pattern of unwelcome flirtation and sexually suggestive behavior” directed at female staff members and other women working in the state Capitol in Sacramento. Mendoza had not engaged in any sexual relationships with the women, and had not been physically aggressive toward them, the report said.

In one instance, investigators found that Mendoza had invited a Senate fellow, a woman in her early 20s, suggested that they vacation together and offered to rent a spare room in his house to her.

Mendoza has filed suit against the Legislature, alleging that he has been treated unfairly because he is Latino.

Two other Los Angeles-area legislators, Raul Bocanegra and Matt Dababneh, have lost their jobs amid sexual harassment allegations. Both were Democrats in the state Assembly.

Another lawmaker, Cristina Garcia, is on leave from the Assembly after a report by Politico that two men had accused her of improper sexual conduct. Garcia, a Democrat, has been a prominent voice in Sacramento against sexual harassment in state government.