Capitol Alert

Democratic Assemblyman Steve Fox sued by ex-Capitol staffer

A former legislative director has filed a discrimination lawsuit against freshman Assemblyman Steve Fox, alleging that the Palmdale Democrat forced her to perform menial tasks for his private law office and created an untenable work environment that included exposing himself at his apartment.

The suit was filed this week in Sacramento Superior Court by Nancy Finnigan, who claims she was fired in May 2013 after complaining about Fox and others in his office.

Shortly before her termination, Finnigan said she attended a meeting with Fox, unnamed stakeholders and their lobbyist where the assemblyman asked what they could do about his “precincts.” “Fox’s conversation implied that there could be a quid pro quo between them concerning legislation,” the lawsuit states.

Fox’s campaign consultant dismissed the allegations as politically motivated coming less than two months before the Nov. 4 election. Lisa Gasperoni said it was a “disgruntled” former employee “attempting to extort Mr. Fox in the middle of his re-election campaign.”

“I’m confident that the voters will see this flawed claim for what it is and focus on the millions of dollars Mr. Fox has brought to his district to create and keep good-paying jobs in the Antelope Valley,” she said. “Given Mr. Fox’s long record of working in the community, I think the voters know Mr. Fox and will understand that this is a meritless claim.”

Fox is perhaps the Legislature’s most vulnerable incumbent, having won his seat to represent desert communities north of Los Angeles by just 145 votes. His opponent in November is Tom Lackey, a retired sergeant from the California Highway Patrol who is in his third term on the Palmdale City Council.

Finnigan is the second former legislative employee to sue the assemblyman, alleging that he misused state resources. Kristina Zahn, a former scheduler and paralegal at his law practice, claimed in February that Fox made her perform unpaid work for his firm and also forced her to spend hours on voter registration and campaign activities.

Finnigan’s suit says her duties extended well beyond the walls of the state Capitol, and included providing her boss lessons on manners and etiquette, along with reminders to bathe and wear clean clothes. Fox’s alleged exposure incident came when Finnigan arrived at his former apartment to fetch him for a mandatory session of the Assembly.

When he answered the door, it states, Fox was half-naked and holding a pair of pants around his waist. Fox then “emerged from his apartment with a shirt on, carrying his shoes and tie, but his pants were not zipped or buttoned.”