Capitol Alert

Cristina Garcia accuser appeals investigation that cleared her of groping allegation

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, right, D-Bell Gardens, is hugged by Assemblywoman Eloise Gomez Reyes, D-Grand Terrace, on her first day back in the Assembly since an investigation into sexual misconduct charges on May 25, 2018.
Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, right, D-Bell Gardens, is hugged by Assemblywoman Eloise Gomez Reyes, D-Grand Terrace, on her first day back in the Assembly since an investigation into sexual misconduct charges on May 25, 2018. The Associated Press

The man who accused Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia of drunkenly groping him at a legislative softball game is appealing the results of an Assembly investigation that did not substantiate his claims.

Daniel Fierro, a former legislative staffer, said in February that Garcia cornered him after the game in 2014, squeezed his butt and attempted to grab his crotch. The Bell Gardens Democrat took an unpaid leave of absence for three months while the Assembly looked into the allegations but returned to the Capitol last week after she was cleared of the groping charge.

"Mr. Fierro objects to the investigation and the determination on the grounds that the investigation was not impartial or conducted in good faith, and did not afford Mr. Fierro due process," attorney Robin D. Dal Soglio wrote in a letter Wednesday to Debra Gravert, the chief administrative officer of the Assembly.

Under the Assembly sexual harassment policy, the chair and vice chair of the Rules Committee will review the investigator's full report. If they they determine that Fierro "has been denied a fair evaluation of the complaint," they could direct Gravert to take "remedial action," including disciplining Garcia or further investigation.

"I think there needs to be a discussion about how the investigation was handled," Fierro said in an interview.

Dal Soglio wrote in her letter that "it is clear that several witnesses identified to the investigator were not interviewed," including Fierro's former boss, Assemblyman Ian Calderon, D-Whittier; other members of the Assembly "who can testify to the fact that Ms. Garcia was inebriated and her presence after the end of the baseball game"; and "another witness to whom Mr. Fierro reported the groping incident shortly after it occurred."

The letter also mentions that political consultant Erin Lehane, "who has specific knowledge of the activities involving Assemblymember Garcia and offered to be interviewed was not interviewed." Lehane is now running a campaign to defeat Garcia's re-election bid, funded primarily by the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California and its affiliate unions.

"Many of the witnesses can provide information in direct contradiction to Ms. Garcia's public statement that she left the ballpark immediately after the game and, therefore, supposedly was not there at the time that Mr. Fierro asserts she entered the dugout and groped him," Dal Soglio wrote. "Ms. Garcia's inebriation at the time of the incident is directly relevant to determining the relative credibility of Ms. Garcia's recollection (or lack thereof) of event that night."

Garcia has been lying low since returning to the Capitol, despite union protests calling on her to resign. She has declined interview requests to discuss the investigation. It determined that she violated the Assembly sexual harassment policy by using vulgar language, and she was removed from her committee memberships and required to attend sensitivity training as a result.

But Garcia was welcomed back by her colleagues to the Assembly floor last Friday, several of whom offered her warm hugs.

"After an exhaustive 3-month independent investigation, Assemblywoman Garcia was cleared of the allegations of unwanted sexual misconduct," William Schlitz, a spokesman for Garcia's campaign, said in a written statement. "We respect the process of the investigation. However, we do not anticipate any change in the results as the allegations are simply not true. I look forward to having the investigation finalized."

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