SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — “It affects your ability to do your job,” said Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Los Angeles).
Garcia wasn’t happy when she ran into her colleague this week, state Sen. Tony Mendoza in the halls of the Capitol.
“I was just like wow, the audacity to be here,” she said.
The senator’s supposed to be on a month-long paid leave of absence.
He recently agreed to step aside pending an investigation into allegations that he harassed young women who worked for him, but he denies any improper conduct.
“Many of the [women who’ve accused Mendoza of misconduct] are still in the building who’ve come forward, who’ve been brave enough,” she said.
Mendoza’s spokesman tells CBS13, the senator was there to meet with legal counsel, work on his legislative agenda, and attend an event hosted by an interest group.
Outside Mendoza’s Capitol office, his title is still intact, even though the Senate stripped Mendoza of his leadership posts at the insurance, banking, and financial institutions two months ago.
“His name’s still on the door with the leadership position that we thought had been stripped. He is flying up here. Meeting with staff who have no whistleblower protections in the law. Staff who could be witnesses for cases against him,” said Christine Pelosi, the chair of the California Democratic Party Women’s Caucus and counsel for “We Said Enough,” the movement calling out sexual harassment in state politics.
“It seems as if he’s now being able to voluntarily redefine absence to mean presence, and that doesn’t make sense. That’s a farce. It flies in the face of what everybody knows,” she said.
But Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon says, it’s unclear if the Senate can prohibit Mendoza from attending events.
Mr. de Leon issued a statement, reading:
“The senator’s formal leave of absence includes all Capitol activities, and we expect him to honor those terms completely going forward.”
Garcia says even when Mendoza returns, she refuses to work with him on future legislation.
“I’m going to keep my distance, and I’m not trying to interact with him. All of us have at least that power and that responsibility,” she said.
Mendoza says he looks forward to clearing his name and hopes to return to work on Feb. 1 or sooner if the investigation concludes.