Capitol Alert

What led to California lawmaker’s resignation amid sexual harassment allegations

Sen. Tony Mendoza resigned from office Thursday after a Senate investigation confirmed that he “more likely than not” engaged in a pattern of unwanted advances and sexually suggested behavior toward six women, including four subordinates, over the last decade.

Here’s a timeline of major events.

Sept. 22, 2017: Mendoza’s chief-of-staff, legislative director and scheduler are fired. The Senate later alleges Adriana Ruelas, Mendoza’s legislative director, reported for the first time that the senator made unwanted advances on a Senate fellow in the office. In a complaint filed with the state in January, Ruelas asserts that the Senate had been informed about it since February 2017.

Oct. 17, 2017: More than 140 female legislators, lobbyists, political consultants and other women in the Capitol community release an open letter calling out a culture of sexual harassment and widespread “dehumanizing behavior by men with power in our workplaces.”

Nov. 9, 2017: The Bee publishes allegations that Mendoza made unwanted advances on the Senate fellow. Sources allege that three of Mendoza’s employees who complained about the situation or knew about it were fired. The Senate denies any connection between the firings and the complaints.

Nov. 11, 2017: The Bee publishes intern Jennifer Kwart’s story about attending a political convention at the invitation of Mendoza’s district office to find herself, then 19, alone with the senator. Mendoza drives her back to a hotel suite and gives her alcohol from the mini-bar. His comments and behavior make her uncomfortable. She fakes a family emergency to book an early flight home.

California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, Mendoza’s roommate in Sacramento, moves out.

Nov. 12, 2017: The Senate announces that the Senate Rules Committee will no longer handle complaints of sexual, abuse, harassment or assault. The Senate commits to hiring an outside legal team to investigate all allegations, determine findings and recommendations for discipline. The Senate says the general findings of an investigation will be made public.

Nov. 16, 2017: The Bee publishes a story about Haley Myers, a former Mendoza aide who said she told the Assembly in 2010 that Mendoza engaged in behavior that she considers sexual harassment when she worked for him in Sacramento.

Nov. 27, 2017: The rules committee votes unanimously to remove Mendoza from his positions on committees and commissions.

Dec. 14, 2017: At a press conference, de León says he asked Mendoza to step away from his position in the Legislature as law firms investigate the allegations. Mendoza refuses. The Senate leader also announces that that the Senate hired two law firms to investigate all sexual harassment allegations and is working with a nonprofit to provide confidential support services for survivors.

Jan. 3, 2018: The Bee reports that Ruelas filed a discrimination complaint against Mendoza, the Senate and two legislative officials, alleging that she was retaliated against for reporting sexual harassment.

Senators return to Sacramento for the first floor session of the year. While insisting that no one has suggested he engaged in “inappropriate bodily contact,” Mendoza agrees to temporarily step down with pay amid pressure from lawmakers over the sexual harassment allegations. He pledges to return no later than Feb. 1.

Jan. 4, 2018: An aide for Mendoza sends an email seeking winter and spring interns in his Cerritos district office to more than three dozen colleges professors and administrators.

Jan. 8, 2018: Despite taking a leave of absence, Mendoza returns to his Capitol office and attends a Sacramento event hosted by an interest group. He continues to attend events in his district.

Jan. 23, 2018: De León criticizes Mendoza for having “no decency and little respect for the institution.” Days earlier Mendoza posted pictures of himself giving a boat tour for dozens of high school seniors.

Jan. 25, 2018: The rules committee votes to extend Mendoza’s paid leave for 60 days or until an investigation into sexual harassment allegations concludes.

Feb. 2, 2018: Both houses of the Legislature release limited records on substantiated sexual harassment allegations against senior staff and lawmakers over the last 10 years. The records include the claims against Mendoza by Myers in 2010. The records show that Assembly officials warned Mendoza not to send her unprofessional text messages, not to hug her, retaliate against her or bring up the situation again.

Feb. 15, 2018: Mendoza files a lawsuit that asserts the Senate has treated him unfairly and violated his constitutional rights when a panel of lawmakers extended his voluntary leave of absence.

Feb. 20, 2018: The Senate Rules Committee publicly releases a summary of the law firms’ investigative findings confirming that Mendoza likely engaged in a pattern of unwanted behavior toward six women, including Kwart, Myers and the Senate fellow, over the last decade. The investigation concludes that it is unlikely any of the employees in Mendoza’s office were fired in retaliation in 2017.

Feb. 21, 2018 - The Senate Republican and Democratic caucuses meet separately to hear a presentation on the findings and discuss action to take against Mendoza.

Feb. 22, 2018 - De León pushes a resolution to expel Mendoza. Before a vote, Mendoza resigns from the Senate effective immediately.

Taryn Luna: 916-326-5545, @TarynLuna

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