After gaining national recognition for her support of the #MeToo movement, Democratic Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia has been accused of sexual misconduct by one of her staffers. The accuser, Daniel Fierro, told the Washington Postthat Garcia, who chairs the Legislative Women's Caucus, approached him at an assembly softball game visibly intoxicated and squeezed his buttocks and tried to touch his genitals.
Fierro, 25 at the time, did not report the incident because he was concerned there would be longterm consequences for making an accusation against Garcia. In wake of the #MeToo movement, he reported the incident this January to his former supervisor, Democratic Assemblyman Ian Calderon. Calderon brought the issue to an assembly panel which is now investigating Garcia.
Garcia was one of 140 women working in California's capital of Sacramento who signed a letter protesting harassment in the state legislature. She has also called for male colleguages to resign when they faced accusations of sexual misconduct. "Multiple people have grabbed my butt and grabbed my breasts," she had told The New York Times, describing how she had been a victim of sexual harassment by men while working in politics, stating "We're talking about senior lobbyists and lawmakers."
The assemblywoman has publically vowed not to work with any lawmakers who have been accused of sexual harassment and worked on legislation to protect staff in the legislature who report sexual misconduct. She was even featured as a "silence breaker" in Time's People of the Year issue.
Fierro is not the only man in government to accuse Garcia of misconduct; Politico, who first reported Fierro's claims, also presented allegations from an anonymous male lobbyist, who says that she cornered him at a political fundraiser, graphically tried to solicit sex from him, and tried to grab his crotch. The lobbyist says that she was heavily drinking at the event, which was held by Governor Jerry Brown for state Senator Josh Newman at the de Veres bar in Sacramento.
He claims that he was leaving the event to avoid Garcia who had make sexual advances and proposed late night drinks a few occasions before, which he had declined.
"She came back and was whispering real close and I could smell the booze and see she was pretty far gone,'' he told Politco. "She looked at me for a second and said, 'I've set a goal for myself to fuck you.'" He also described that Garcia, "stepped in front of me and reaches out and is grabbing for my crotch."
Garcia told The Post she does not remember any acts of misconduct in a statement. "I can confirm that I did attend the 2014 legislative softball game with a number of members and my staff. I can also say I have zero recollection of engaging in inappropriate behavior and such behavior is inconsistent with my values."
The assemblywoman has even told the Associated Press that consumption of alcohol at after-work political events was not an excuse for making unwanted sexual advances. "I would say that most of the public realizes that our job is based on relationships, and so we are expected to go out there and socialize," she said. "I think our public also expects us to hold ourselves to a higher standard."
Fierro told The Post he immediately noticed Garcia was intoxicated right before the incident. He also says he immediately told two co-workers about the misconduct, both of which who confirmed to Politico that he had.
Fierro expressed that he was reluctant to come forward with the accusations because he did not want to distract from the women making allegations against powerful men, but as the discussion surrounding sexual misconduct in Sacramento grew, he felt he had to speak up. Garcia's growing profile as an anti-harassment activist was also a factor for Fierro, who is one of her constiutients.
"I knew that I had had an experience that didn't jibe with what was she was saying, and that kind of hypocrisy was really hard to stomach," he explained.
Garcia is taking an immediate unpaid leave from her position while she is under investigation.