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California assemblywoman reprimanded for unwanted hug, kiss

Gavin Newsom, Wendy Carrillo
Posted at 4:02 PM, Feb 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-07 19:02:00-05

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The leader of California's state Assembly on Friday formally reprimanded an assemblywoman and her chief of staff for inappropriate behavior — an unwanted hug and kiss from the assemblywoman and coarse sexual comments from her top aide.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon chastised Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo, a fellow Democrat from the Los Angeles area, in the reprimand letters to her and chief of staff George Esparza. He ordered both to undergo training or coaching on appropriate workplace conduct.

Carrillo's office said Esparza would comment on behalf of both of them, but he did not immediately respond to telephone and email messages.

The incidents are the latest in a string of misconduct and punishments of state lawmakers as the #MeToo movement gained traction in recent years. Some of the complaints have cost lawmakers their jobs.

On Thursday, officials confirmed that the Legislature will pay $310,000 to a former employee to settle an unrelated lawsuit alleging that the state Senate and former state Sen. Tony Mendoza retaliated against her for reporting an allegation that Mendoza sexually harassed a co-worker. Mendoza resigned in 2018 while denying wrongdoing.

The latest reprimand letters are dated Thursday but released Friday, along with a heavily redacted incident report.

Legislative investigators found that Carrillo “hugged and kissed, on the cheek” the unnamed complainant. Other portions of the redacted report say she insisted on a “two-arm hug” apparently from the same individual at a breakfast and a dinner event.

Separate letters say Esparza “made inappropriate sexual comments” and, in a letter to the complainant, “inappropriately commented on your appearance.”

The narrative says Esparza said the complainant “was attractive enough to represent...” but redacts the rest of the sentence. The inappropriate comments apparently included him saying, “You gotta know where the girls are at,” and “are you done masturbating?" The circumstances of the comments are redacted, as is when the incidents occurred other than that they were within the last 12 months.

Rendon's office would not provide further information.

Carrillo was elected in 2017 and faces re-election this year. However, she is one of 15 state lawmakers who face no opponents this year, which is tantamount to re-election.

In Jan. 2019, Esparza was named in an FBI warrant for an investigation related to his former boss, Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar, the Los Angeles Times previously reported. Esparza told the paper he stopped working for Huizar, who has not been charged with a crime, in early 2018.

Records obtained by The Associated Press show that as of about a year ago, the Legislature had racked up more than $1.8 million in legal costs from sexual harassment investigations during 2018 and the first month of 2019. At that point, at least nine sitting or former lawmakers had faced allegations of misconduct.