Capitol Alert

Help Wanted: Sen. Tony Mendoza sought spring interns despite allegations

Democratic State Sen. Tony Mendoza stands on the floor of the Senate chambers in between private meetings of the Democratic caucus, Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018, in Sacramento, Calif. Mendoza stepped down temporarily as the Senate investigates sexual harassment allegations against him.
Democratic State Sen. Tony Mendoza stands on the floor of the Senate chambers in between private meetings of the Democratic caucus, Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018, in Sacramento, Calif. Mendoza stepped down temporarily as the Senate investigates sexual harassment allegations against him. AP

Sen. Tony Mendoza’s office continued to advertise for new interns after the Artesia Democrat agreed to temporarily step down as the California Senate investigates alleged misconduct toward three former employees, including an intern and a Sacramento State fellow.

Mendoza agreed to take a leave of absence until the end of the month after his colleagues pressured him for several hours in a private caucus meeting on Jan. 3. The next day, an aide for Mendoza sent an email seeking winter and spring interns in his Cerritos district office to more than three dozen college professors and administrators.

The email said the internship would “put students on the front lines of local politics, immersing them into the world of council meetings, and learn in depth the official legislative process in Sacramento.” It did not mention the pending investigation or allegations against Mendoza.

Robert Alaniz, a spokesman for Mendoza, described the email as a standard procedure this time of year in the senator’s office. He said it was withdrawn last week. A spokesman for Sen. Kevin de Leòn said the pro tem’s office asked Mendoza to pull an advertisement for interns from his website, which has been taken down.

At least one of the recipients, California State University, Long Beach, forwarded the email to students. An administrative assistant who sent the email to students in the university’s Graduate Center for Public Policy and Administration said she was unaware of the allegations involving Mendoza. She recalled the email and apologized in a message to students, informing them about the situation.

Mendoza and the pro tem’s office butted heads last week after the senator returned to the Capitol, despite his voluntary leave of absence. A spokesman for Mendoza said the senator returned to meet with his staff members and a proponent of one of his bills.

The pro tem’s office sent a sergeant to ask him to leave Tuesday. Mendoza refused. Then Dan Reeves, de Leòn’s chief-of-staff, asked Mendoza to leave. He refused again. He later left complied after receiving a call from de Leòn.

A spokesman for the pro tem said Mendoza’s temporary leave of absence includes all Capitol activities, but the Senate cannot restrict him from attending events outside the Capitol.

Mendoza attended a reception hosted by an interest group in Downtown Sacramento last Tuesday evening. He posted pictures on Facebook Thursday at a Santa Fe Spring City Council meeting handing a Senate Resolution to the outgoing mayor.

Senate President pro tem Kevin de Leon, a Los Angeles Democrat, said on December 14, 2017 that he is working to make changes in how sexual harassment complaints have been handled in the California Legislature.

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WORTH REPEATING: “How many of us would be perceived as a threat for our own intellectual capacity?”

- Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, reflecting on Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and death during a Senate ceremony

WILDFIRE PROTECTIONS: After wild fires ravaged the state last year, lawmakers have been quick to introduce legislation to address a growing concern for California homeowners. Insurance Commissioner and Attorney General Candidate Dave Jones will join state legislators at a press conference this morning to announce the Wildfire Survivors Recovery Blueprint, described as a collection of bills to “increase consumer protections for wildfire survivors during the recovery process.” The announcement comes weeks after Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, unveiled the Wildfire Safety and Recovery Act to prohibit insurance companies from dropping or not renewing homeowners’ policies after a wildfire, among other new safeguards. Lara, who is running to replace Jones as insurance commissioner, is absent from a list of lawmakers who will attend the press conference at 10:30 a.m. in room 1190 at the Capitol.

MUST READ: Gavin Newsom, a frontrunner in the California governor’s race, took shots from the other candidates vying to replace Jerry Brown during their first time on stage together over the weekend.

Taryn Luna: 916-326-5545, @TarynLuna

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