California Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, a #MeToo advocate under investigation for sexual harassment, has been hit with more damaging allegations that paint her office as a toxic work environment in which Garcia behaved unprofessionally and inappropriately on a regular basis.
Four former staffers wrote a letter detailing allegations of sexual and professional misconduct since the Democratic lawmaker was elected in 2012 and requesting that the State Assembly investigate.
The former staffers alleged:
- Garcia regularly drank alcohol on the job and pressured staff to do the same both at the office and during after hours events.
- Garcia would brag in “uncomfortable” detail about her sexual activity, including sexual activity with other lawmakers that took place in Assembly offices
- Garcia bragged about using sex to get information from other elected officials.
- Garcia treated her staff harshly, routinely belittling and threatening them with termination, and showing herself to be “very retaliatory in nature.”
- Garcia required staffers to perform campaign and personal duties on Assembly time.
Three of the four staffers who wrote the letter have remained anonymous out of fear of retaliation, but one of them elaborated on the situation to Politico.
David Kernick comes forward
David Kernick worked for Garcia for five months in 2014 and filed a formal complaint against the assemblywoman that claims he was fired for resisting her behavior.
Kernick told Politico that Garcia once drank heavily at a fundraising event and later tried to get staffers to play “spin the bottle” in her hotel room. He said he was disciplined and fired shortly after protesting the game as sexual harassment.
“It was definitely uncomfortable,” Kernick told Politico. “But I realized it’s different for a man than for a woman. … You know it’s inappropriate, but at the same time you may wonder, ‘How many women do you work for that act like that?’ You think … ‘Maybe she’s just really cool.’”
A pattern of behavior?
Other staffers and a lobbyist told Politico that Garcia would serve alcoholic drinks during work hours as a form of “team-building” and that she offered beer to a group of lobbyists during a morning meeting from a tap she had in her office.
A spokeswoman for the 40-year-old Garcia would not comment on the new allegations.
“The assembly member is on voluntary, unpaid leave until the investigation into the claim has concluded,” said spokeswoman Teala Schiff. “As an employee of [the] Assembly Rules [Committee], I am not able to answer your questions.”
Garcia, under investigation for allegations that she groped former staff members, said:
I will address each of these issues individually after the investigations into these allegations are closed. I am confident that I consistently treated my staff fairly and respectfully. In a fast-paced legislative office, not everyone is the right fit for every position, and I do understand how a normal employment decision could be misinterpreted.