SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A California senator accused of sexual misconduct will learn next week whether he’ll face formal disciplinary proceedings, the Senate Rules Committee said Friday after receiving the results of an investigation into his behavior.
The findings of the investigation on Sen. Tony Mendoza have not been made public but were presented to the rules panel in a closed-door meeting. When it concluded, the five-member committee said it would decide Tuesday whether to recommend discipline, and if so will share the findings with all senators.
Mendoza, an Artesia Democrat, could be censured, suspended, expelled or face no discipline. He has been on paid leave while the investigation was underway and filed a lawsuit Thursday saying he’s been treated unfairly.
Mendoza has been accused of acting inappropriately toward young women who worked for him, including inviting one to his home and offering another alcohol when she was underage. He also is accused of firing a staffer who reported one of the instances.
He has denied retaliation or behaving inappropriately and said in the lawsuit that no one has accused him of “any inappropriate bodily contact, propositions or threats.”
Spokesmen for Mendoza did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the committee’s statement.
Suspending or expelling Mendoza would require a two-thirds vote by the 40-member Senate. He could be censured with a simple majority. A suspension could come with or without pay.
Mendoza’s lawsuit, filed in Sacramento County a day before the investigative findings were presented, argues that he’s been treated differently than a white colleague accused of misconduct and accuses Rules Committee members of making up their minds before the investigation concluded. Mendoza is of Mexican heritage..
His suit also argues that he has never been told what exactly is under investigation and is being denied due process, while his constituents lose out on representation in Sacramento.
The Rules Committee members pushed back, saying in their statement that Mendoza “was afforded significant opportunity to present his position during the investigative process” and will have a chance to defend himself on the Senate floor if his colleagues move to discipline him.
Mendoza is the only lawmaker who has been suspended since allegations of sexual misconduct at the Capitol broke open last fall. Two assemblymen voluntarily resigned, and their seats haven’t been filed. Democratic Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia took a voluntary leave of absence.
By JONATHAN J. COOPER and KATHLEEN RONAYNE
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