Cristina Garcia, a California Democratic Assemblywoman who is also the head of the Legislative Women’s Caucus and a leading figure in the state’s anti-sexual harassment movement, stands accused of groping a male staffer from another lawmaker’s office.
Daniel Fierro told The Associated Press on Thursday that Garcia stroked his back, squeezed his buttocks and attempted to touch his crotch in a dugout after a legislative softball game in 2014.
Fierro didn’t report it at the time but in January told his former boss, Democratic Assemblyman Ian Calderon, who reported it to Assembly leaders. The Assembly is now investigating Garcia.
Politico first reported Fierro’s accusation.
Garcia’s spokeswoman Teala Schaff said the assemblywoman learned Jan. 23 a complaint was filed but was given no details and only learned the specifics of the allegations from Politico.
“Every complaint about sexual harassment should be taken seriously and I will participate fully in any investigation that takes place,” the Los Angeles-area lawmaker said in a statement thursday. “I have zero recollection of engaging in inappropriate behavior and such behavior is inconsistent with my values.”
The investigation into Garcia is one of many in statehouses nationwide following a wave of sexual misconduct allegations against men in power since an October expose of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein by the New York Times.
Fierro said he decided to tell Calderon about the incident because of Garcia’s outspokenness in the #MeToo movement, which references the social media campaign used by millions to tell personal experiences with sexual harassment.
“If the person leading the charge on it isn’t credible it just ends up hurting the credibility of these very real stories,” Fierro told the AP.
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, a Democrat, said in a statement he is directing human resources to reach out to Garcia’s staff to make sure they feel safe.
“I trust that while the investigation proceeds, Assemblymember Garcia will respond appropriately and in a way that fortifies the Legislature’s effort to create a new climate,” he said.
Fierro, who was 25 at the time, said he was interviewed by an outside law firm hired by the Assembly Rules Committee last Friday. Politico also reported that a lobbyist who declined to be named claimed Garcia made crude sexual comments and tried to grab his crotch at a 2017 fundraiser.
Garcia was elected in 2012 and has carved out a name as a champion of women’s issues and environmental health for poor communities and chairs the Women’s Caucus.