SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – The New Year started with fireworks at the state capitol. Senator Tony Mendoza announced he will take a one-month leave of absence, following claims of sexual harassment by former interns.
Under mounting pressure Wednesday, the Los Angeles area state senator refused to resign, but agreed to step down temporarily.
“I have decided that I will take a leave of absence for this month of January to allow the investigation to move forward,” said Mendoza (D-Artesia.)
Wednesday’s announcement came following four hours inside a closed Democratic caucus and at the advice of his colleagues.
“I do appreciate their feedback,” Mendoza said.
The first day back in session, all eyes were on Mendoza, who said he wasn’t going anywhere Wednesday morning. In November, three former interns claimed Mendoza sexually harassed them. He was immediately stripped of his leadership positions, including as Chair of the Banking Committee.
In December, Senate Leader Kevin De Leon called on Mendoza to resign, but Mendoza wouldn’t budge, until now. Republican Senator Joel Anderson is glad he did.
“I think it’s in the best interest of the victims that they get a fair process,” said Anderson (R-Alpine.)
Anderson says it’s also in the best interest of Mendoza to remove any concern about a conflict of interest. He also says Mendoza isn’t the only one who should go.
“You have two senators in very similar circumstances but only one has been asked to step down for 30 days.”
He’s referring to Senator Bob Hertzberg, also of the Los Angeles area, accused of inappropriately hugging some female colleagues. The state is investigating those claims.
Mendoza meanwhile, says he’ll sit out for now, waiting for the investigation he hopes will clear his name.
“I will return on February the first,” said Mendoza.
A complaint has also been filed with the state by one of Mendoza’s former staff members, claiming she was fired for reporting the inappropriate behavior.