High-profile #MeToo activist and California assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, a Democrat, faces new allegations over inappropriate conduct in the workplace. As a so-called silence breaker who spoke out against sexual harassment, Garcia was featured as one of Time magazine’s persons of the year.
Two men — a former staffer named Daniel Fierro and an unnamed lobbyist — have already accused her of groping them.
David John Kernick, an ex-Marine and a former staffer, has come forward with new allegations against Garcia by filing a formal complaint with California’s Fair Employment and Housing Department, Politico reported.
“Kernick, 38, who worked for the assemblywoman for five months in 2014, described to POLITICO an evening of heavy drinking in which Garcia ended up sitting on a hotel room floor with about half-dozen people — including her staffers and at least one male friend — and prompted them to play a game that results in participants kissing each other.”
The suggestion that followed a political fundraiser held at a whiskey bar made everyone uncomfortable, Kernick implied, and was disregarded. He claims, however, that the Los Angeles-area politician accused him of insubordination and then fired him within a few days of questioning the appropriateness of the spin-the-bottle suggestion. His lawyer claimed that her behavior crossed the line into sexual harassment and the Kernick has become part of the #MeToo movement.
About a week ago, Kernick and three other ex-employees at the Sacramento state capitol submitted an open letter to the state assembly speaker accusing Cristina Garcia, who formerly led the Legislative Women’s Caucus, of presiding “over a ‘toxic’ workplace where activities included regular heavy drinking with staffers, sexually charged meetings and raunchy conversations highlighting intimate details of her sex life,” Politico added.
The three other workers have withheld their names out of concerns about retaliation in some form. The staffers also alleged that Garcia pressured them into going out drinking with her in the evening.
A lobbyist separately told Politico that Garcia allegedly kept a “kegerator” (a refrigerator equipped with her beer tap) in her office and offered adult beverages to lobbyists.
Garcia has denied the groping allegations and is, however, currently on a voluntary unpaid leave of absence pending an investigation with an undefined timetable. According to CBS News, investigators have yet to interview her. In California, Democrats hold all statewide offices and control both the state senate and the state assembly.
In a sit-down with CBS, she reaffirmed her denials but did hint that alcohol is routine at the state capitol. She apparently has no plans to step down from her elected office.
In a Facebook post which has prompted a mixed reaction, Garcia insisted that she has always treated her staff in a fair and respectful way and would address the various allegations in more detail once the investigation reaches a conclusion.
Cristina Garcia has represented the 58th assembly district in southeastern Los Angeles County since 2012. As the sexual harassment allegations against the assemblywoman collectively constitute a developing story, please check back for updates.