California

Investigation finds former California lawmaker likely sexually harassed staff

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.

An investigation authorized by the California Assembly found former Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas of Los Angeles likely sexually harassed staffers while serving in the Legislature, including by pressing himself against and trying to kiss an employee.

The heavily redacted records show there were at least two complaints against the former lawmaker before he resigned in December 2017 citing health reasons. Vida Thomas, the attorney hired by the Assembly to investigate the complaints, found Ridley-Thomas likely made another female Assembly employee uncomfortable by holding her hand and winking at her on multiple occasions.

In a statement, Ridley-Thomas’ lawyer Nancy Sheehan said the investigation “defied any definition of due process and objectivity.” Her client provided evidence refuting the claims against him, she said.

“He continues to strongly deny the claims,” Sheehan said. “In light of how this investigation was skewed, it is difficult to have confidence in its findings.”

The Assembly Rules Committee sent Ridley-Thomas a letter in December 2018 telling him the investigator interviewed 15 people and “substantiated” the allegations of harassment. Assembly spokesman Kevin Liao said it’s now too late for Ridley-Thomas to appeal the findings.

An unidentified legislative employee told investigators that Ridley-Thomas in 2016 confided that he “had always been obsessed me.” The legislative employee said Ridley-Thomas made unwanted physical gestures, such as attempting to hold hands, according to a largely redacted memo from the Assembly Rules Committee dated November 2017.

“He tried to put his tongue in my mouth,” the person told Assembly Human Resources staff, according to the memo. “I could feel his erect penis on my leg. I told him I wasn’t interested.”

Ridley-Thomas called the employee’s cell phone several times and sent them text messages following the incident, according to the complaint.

Ridley-Thomas is a Democrat and the son of Los Angeles Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. Sebastian Ridley-Thomas is the fourth lawmaker in the last few years to resign after facing sexual harassment complaints.

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