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Legislative Women's Caucus Leader Takes Leave Amid Sexual Harassment Allegations

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California State Assembly members Cristina Garcia (L) and Anthony Rendon in Sacramento on May 15, 2017. Garcia is the leader of the Legislative Women's Caucus. (Bert Johnson/KQED)

Update, 11:30 a.m. Friday:

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia took a voluntary unpaid leave of absence Friday, a day after sexual misconduct allegations against her became public.

Garcia, a Democrat and chair of the Legislative Women's Caucus, is accused of groping former legislative staff member Daniel Fierro in 2014, an allegation she denies. He reported the claim in January and it is now under formal investigation. Garcia said she's taking leave to avoid distractions and any appearance of influence over the investigation.

"Upon reflection of the details alleged, I am certain I did not engage in the behavior I am accused of," Garcia said in a statement. "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."

Original Post:
The head of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus -- and an outspoken supporter of the #MeToo and #WeSaid Enough movements -- is facing accusations of sexual harassment.

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As first reported by Politico, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) has been accused of groping two men.

Garcia is currently under legislative investigation following a complaint that she cornered and groped a staffer after the 2014 legislative softball game.

“[Garcia] can confirm that she did attend the 2014 legislative softball game with a number of members and her staff," said Teala Schaff, Garcia’s communications director.

"She also says she has zero recollection of engaging in any inappropriate behavior.”

A second man told Politico that Garcia groped him while at a Sacramento fundraiser in 2017.

Schaff said Garcia takes every complaint of sexual harassment seriously and that she will fully participate in any investigation that takes place.

Garcia has drawn national attention for speaking out against sexual harassment. Her picture was featured in Time Magazine as one of the “Silence Breakers” in its Person of the Year issue.

Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino), vice chair of the Women's Caucus, said she is shocked by the allegations.

"I have consistently voiced my strong opinion that any legislator under investigation by either the Assembly or Senate should take an immediate leave of absence until the review is completed," she said in a statement.

Leyva said she will ask the caucus to meet in the near future to discuss whether Garcia should remain as chair.

This post includes reporting by The Associated Press.

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