Capitol Alert

'Huggy Bear' Hertzberg's accuser didn't meet with Senate investigators

Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Los Angeles, left, talks with Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, on April 20, 2015.
Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Los Angeles, left, talks with Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, on April 20, 2015. The Associated Press

A former assemblywoman who accused Sen. Bob Hertzberg of pinning her in his arms and thrusting his groin into her said she declined to meet with lawyers hired by the Senate to investigate her allegation.

"I don’t want any involvement with these people," said Linda Halderman, a Republican who represented Fresno in the Assembly from 2010 to 2012. "I don’t respect how they’ve handled it."

Halderman said she now lives out-of-state and talked with one of the lawyers on the phone and through e-mail. She said she doubted the objectivity of the process when she learned that she would not have access to the final report on the investigation. The Senate has committed to publicly releasing a summary of the conclusions from each substantiated sexual harassment allegation, but will not disclose the full reports.

Halderman also said she suffers from multiple sclerosis and travel is difficult. An investigator offered to travel to meet her, which she said she declined. Halderman said she directed the investigator to her first-person account about the alleged event published in the Fresno Bee last month.

"At this point I’m really happy to not deal with this any further and to let the Senate take responsibility for anything he does in the future," Halderman said.

Halderman said in mid-December that she was first taken aback by Hertzberg's signature bear hugs when he came to the Capitol to teach an orientation after she was elected. The intimate embraces continued and Halderman said she eventually told him it made her uncomfortable. She alleges that he grabbed her anyway and pinned her in his arms, with one hand on her lower back, and thrust his groin into her.

Halderman alleges that she told Jon Waldie, the former chief administrative office of the Assembly, who she said laughed it off. Halderman said she threatened to seek outside counsel and then Waldie agreed to talk to Hertzberg about his behavior.

Waldie said he does not have any recollection of the events she described.

He said it's possible that he may have initially said "that's just how Bob is," considering hugs are Hertzberg's trademark and he's been on the receiving end on several occasions, too. But Waldie, a lawyer by training, shoots down any assertion that she threatened to sue.

"In no way, shape, or form did she ever approach me about taking legal action," Waldie said. "I’m not stupid. Any time a member was in the middle of an allegation of a lawsuit or the potential of a lawsuit, I would go to our legislative counsel."

In addition to legislative counsel, Waldie said he would have alerted then Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and other top officials. He doesn't remember that happening, either.

Waldie and the Assembly were sued in a different case involving a former staff member who alleged that she was harassed for taking breaks to breastfeed her newborn. The Assembly settled the case in 2003 for $540,000. Waldie, who a judge removed as a defendant in the case, was not in support of settling the claim.

The Senate Rules Committee meets Monday, and the house is expected this week to take final action on the Hertzberg allegations, which include complaints by two female lawmakers.

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STUDENT ACTIVISTS: Approximately 100 college students are descending on the Capitol today for a lobby day for CALPIRG's University of California chapters. The group will be hitting up legislators to advocate for environmental legislation, including Senate Bill 100 to require all retail electricity sold in the state to come from renewable energy sources by the end of 2045. The students are holding a press conference on the West Steps of the Capitol at 12:30 p.m. Speakers include Democratic Sens. Kevin de León, Nancy Skinner and Ben Hueso.

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