Capitol Alert

Lawmaker asked Capitol aide to retrieve her bracelet from his pocket, review finds

Sexual harassment cases at the California Capitol

Two lawmakers have resigned and one is on leave at the California Capitol over allegations of improper conduct toward women at the California Capitol. At least one other is under investigation, while the Legislature decides what the next steps are.
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Two lawmakers have resigned and one is on leave at the California Capitol over allegations of improper conduct toward women at the California Capitol. At least one other is under investigation, while the Legislature decides what the next steps are.

Former Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra likely made unwanted advances to three female employees while working as a Capitol chief of staff, an Assembly investigation has concluded, including taking a subordinate's bracelet, sticking it in his pocket and asking her to retrieve it.

The Los Angeles Democrat resigned in November amid mounting allegations of sexual misconduct. Bocanegra was previously disciplined in 2009, while serving as chief of staff to former Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, for groping another legislative staffer at a downtown Sacramento nightclub; six more women came forward with allegations of misbehavior after that story was reported by media outlets including The Bee.

Though he has denied the allegations of sexual harassment, Bocanegra was unwilling to participate in the Assembly investigation, which was released this week through a public records request. Investigators determined that his inappropriate behavior, more likely than not, also included sending messages to an employee, commenting on her appearance and repeatedly asking her out; sliding his hand across an employee's stomach; and stroking the hair of an employee and touching her shoulders.

Bocanegra could not be reached for comment. In a statement to the Los Angeles Times, he said, "Regarding this time period from when I was a staffer nearly 10 years, I can only say that I always intended to treat staff fairly and respectfully."

He also slammed Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, a Bell Gardens Democrat who is currently under investigation for allegedly groping a former legislative staff member at a softball game in 2014. Garcia was the first lawmaker to call on Bocanegra to resign, but she has dismissed the accusations against her as a political attack.

"While at least one sitting Assembly member has refused to take accountability for her inappropriate actions with staff during her time in office, I have done my best to take accountability for any alleged actions prior to ever serving in office," Bocanegra said in the statement to the Times.

The Assembly has also fired Bocanegra's former district director, Gerardo Guzman, who in a separate investigation was found to have failed to report his boss' misconduct and to have behaved inappropriately toward three female subordinates himself. Investigators concluded that he likely showed off and discussed sex toys with employees, stroked the hair of an employee, lay in bed next to an employee, and called an employee a profane term.

Guzman, who is married to Los Angeles City Councilwoman Nury Martinez, did not return a call seeking comment. He told the Los Angeles Times that the incidents occurred before he quit drinking in 2015.

"In terms of the allegations, I'm deeply regretful of the things that happened," Guzman told the Times. "I hope to be the person who can make my wife and my daughter proud of me."

In recent weeks, Guzman had been working on the campaign of Luz Rivas, the founder of a nonprofit to get young girls interested in science, technology, engineering and math, who won the California Democratic Party endorsement in a special election for Bocanegra's old seat.

Rivas said she parted ways with Guzman, an old friend from high school, after hearing this week about his misconduct.

"He was a volunteer, but he is no longer effective immediately," Rivas said.

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