A California assemblywoman whom many have hailed as a national leader of the #MeToo movement has been accused of sexually harassing and groping a young male staffer and a prominent Sacramento lobbyist.
Daniel Fierro, the president of Presidio Strategic Communications, told Politico that he was a 25-year-old staffer working for Assemblyman Ian Calderon when he was groped by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, the chair of California’s Legislative Women’s Caucus. The incident, he alleged, occured in 2014, when he was approached by Garcia while he was cleaning up after an annual Assembly softball game. Fierro claims that Garcia, who appeared to be intoxicated, began stroking his back and then squeezed his buttocks. When she tried to feel his crotch, he said, he swiftly excused himself. Fierro said that he didn’t report the incident until this past January, when he took inspiration from the #MeToo movement and came forward to Calderon, his former boss, who referred his claim to the Assembly Rules Committee for investigation. Garcia has denied any wrongdoing.
Fierro told Politico that he hadn’t come forward earlier out of fear of possible repercussions for his then fledgling communications business, pointing out that while his claim was supposed to be anonymous that within 48 hours of it reaching the committee he “was getting calls” from outside sources about the case. Furthermore, since Fierro no longer works for the legislature, he doesn’t receive the legal protections afforded to staffers — which were recently expanded in California. Pointing out that most staffers “don’t stick around long,” he said his case highlighted the limits of current protections for victims of sexual harassment in the Assembly.
A lobbyist who declined to be named out of fear of possible repercussions also said that Garcia was drunk when she began making crude sexual remarks to him and attempted to fondle his crotch at a 2017 fundraiser.
I didn’t know I was part of the story. That I was pictured and added to a timeline of this reckoning. It’s an awkwardly humbling experience, but I am proud of this work and the company I am in. I hope you’ll pick up a copy of @TIME &read about the bravery.#MeToo #WeSaidEnough pic.twitter.com/P1bfCDPKCf
— Cristina Garcia (@AsmGarcia) December 15, 2017
Garcia, who was featured as a silence breaker in TIME’s Person of the Year issue, which she noted in a post on Twitter in December, responded to the claims by saying she had “zero recollection of engaging in inappropriate behavior and such behavior is inconsistent with my values.” She added that she promised to “participate fully in any investigation” and that “every complaint about sexual harassment should be taken seriously.” On Friday, Garcia said she is taking an unpaid leave of absence while the accusations are investigated, The Mercury News reported. But Garcia disputed the claims and said she was taking leave so as to not become a distraction to the investigation. She posted a statement on Twitter, saying, “Upon reflection of the details alleged, I am certain I did not engage in the behavior I am accused of. However, as I’ve said before, any claims about sexual harassment must be taken seriously, and I believe elected officials should be held to a higher standard of accountability.”
I have issued a statement in response to the allegations of misconduct here: https://t.co/esU3EMFj2o
— Cristina Garcia (@AsmGarcia) February 9, 2018