California Lawmaker Faced Discipline For Sexual Harassment

SACRAMENTO (AP) – Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra put his hands in a woman’s blouse at an after-work gathering when both were legislative staffers in 2009, an incident that only became public Friday and immediately prompted an apology from the Los Angeles-area Democrat.

Bocanegra is the first sitting member of the Legislature to be publicly named since a letter was circulated last week saying there was a “pervasive culture” of sexual harassment at the Capitol and encouraging women to share their stories. Bocanegra was instructed not to speak to the woman staff member who reported his behavior, according to a 2009 letter published by the Los Angeles Times detailing the results of an investigation into the complaint.

“I’m deeply regretful about putting someone in this position and I want to apologize most sincerely,” Bocanegra told the Times.

Bocanegra was elected to the Legislature in 2012, lost his seat in 2014 and won again in 2016.

In the 2009 incident, Elise Flynn Gyore, then a Senate staff member, told the Times Bocanegra approached her outside the bathroom during an after-work event at a Sacramento night club and put his hands into her blouse. Bocanegra was the chief of staff for then-Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes. The two did not know each other, Gyore said.

Gyore confirmed Bocanegra’s identity and reported him the next day to a Senate sergeant, touching off an investigation that included interviews with Gyore, Bocanegra and 13 other unidentified people, according to the letter.

“The findings from the investigation show it is more likely than not that Mr. Bocanegra engaged in behavior that night which does not meet the Assembly’s expectations for professionalism,” said the June 2009 letter detailing the Assembly investigation.

The Assembly shields its investigations from public disclosure laws, meaning allegations and discipline against lawmakers and legislative staff member’s remains secret unless people involved chose to share it. Most women who signed the letter released last week, including lawmakers, lobbyists and staff members, chose not to publicly identified men involved in stories they are sharing about harassment.

The Assembly has investigated 11 sexual harassment and gender bias complaints in the past five years, chief administrative officer Debra Gravert said. The Senate has not publicly disclosed how many investigations it has conducted.

After the investigation into Bocanegra, he was told not to communicate with Gyore and to contact others in her office with any official business, the letter said. Gyore had requested Bocanegra be banned from attending work-related social events involving alcohol, a request the Assembly said it could not comply with, according to the letter.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon did not immediately comment on the newly public information.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.

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