A California assemblywoman who is an outspoken proponent of the #MeToo movement, Cristina Garcia, faces new allegations of sexual misconduct including that she attempted to engage her staff in a game of “spin the bottle” following a fundraiser in 2014, Politico reports.
The Democratic assemblywoman from the city of Bell Gardens, near Los Angeles, was pictured as part of Time’s “Silence Breakers” (on sexual harassment) for its Persons of the Year, but she allegedly has her own dark history with serial harassment.
The latest allegation comes from one of her former staffers, David John Kernick, who alleged in a formal complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing that he was fired two days after he questioned the propriety of Garcia sitting in the middle of the floor of a hotel room after a political fundraiser and urging her staff to play the kissing game “spin the bottle” together.
“Ms. Garcia was very disparaging to the staff and others, used vulgar language, discussed topics inappropriate for the workplace and showed herself to be very vindictive in nature,” according to Kernick’s complaint.
Kernick’s official complaint is another in a string of allegations about the assemblywomen that range from her drinking excessively during and after work, grabbing a former staffer’s butt and then trying to grab his crotch at a softball game, and bragging about her sex life to her staff, according to The Washington Post.
Meanwhile, Garcia, who took a voluntary unpaid leave of absence after sexual misconduct accusations cropped up earlier this month, maintains that the allegations are an attempt to “discredit” her work as a legislator, she said in a statement to the Post:
“In response to [the] allegations I will add that in order for legislators to accomplish all we want for the people of our districts and the people of California, we need talented staff who feel empowered to do their work. That is the environment I strive for in my office and I am confident I have consistently treated my staff fairly and respectfully. In a fast-paced legislative office, not everyone is the right fit for every position, and I do understand how a normal employment decision could be misinterpreted by the individual involved in that decision.”
The first public accusation came from Garcia's former staffer Daniel Fierro, who claimed she groped him at an Assembly softball game in 2014, when he was 25. Last week four other former staffers, who prefer to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, submitted a letter to the Assembly via Kernick’s lawyer Dan Gilleon claiming that Garcia created a “toxic environment” that included heavy drinking (often during work hours), forced happy hours with the staff, and frank sexual discussion.
Democrat Delaine Eastin, who is running for governor in California, pointed out that Garcia has been outspoken in pressing male colleagues accused of harassment to step down and that the assemblywoman should prepare to do so as well.
“The old line is the kettle shouldn’t call the pot black,’’ Eastin said, according to Politico. “If you say this is my value, you ought to live up to the value you set."
Still, Garcia maintains that she did nothing wrong. She is “certain I did not engage in the behavior I am accused of," she said, according to The Sacramento Bee