Cristina Garcia Alleges Political Smear as Alleged Harassment Victims Prepare to Sue

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, is facing allegations that she groped and harassed legislative staffers.  (California Assembly)

This story includes a clarification.

Updated 2:35 p.m. Thursday

Democratic Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia and her allies are pushing back against allegations she sexually harassed legislative staffers, saying that political opponents started a campaign to discredit her soon after she emerged as a leader in the state Capitol's #MeToo movement.

Garcia's camp on Wednesday disclosed what it says is evidence of a concerted effort to find damaging information about her personal life. Garcia, a Los Angeles County Democrat, has taken an unpaid leave of absence while the allegations are investigated.

Garcia, who has headed the Legislative Women's Caucus, says private investigators approached former colleagues and subordinates after she spoke out against sexual harassment in the state Capitol.

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Garcia says the investigators repeatedly asked leading questions about her sexuality and alcohol use. She maintains the investigation and recent allegations of groping and harassment are the dirty work of a host of politicians, operatives and lobbyists determined to sabotage her.

She says private investigators sent messages to former staff, colleagues and even tenants living at Los Angeles County properties she owns.

A private investigator said to have been involved in the inquiries, Nick Werthman of San Francisco, did not return repeated requests for comment.

A second person, Oakland-based freelance journalist Joe Mullin, filed a California Public Records Act request on Nov. 16 asking the Assembly's chief clerk for “details about the number of settlements for [sexual] harassment, abuse and related claims” involving Garcia.

“I did reach out [for a public records request], but it’s not something I’m working on anymore,” Mullin said Wednesday before hanging up the phone.

Mullin said he was not acting as an investigator. But he acknowledged in an email Thursday that he had shared the public records request with Geoff Andersen, a friend working with RAGEPATH, a research group that has expressed an interest in investigating Garcia.

"Geoff Andersen’s RAGEPATH research work is not something I'm involved in," Mullin said. "I've never called or contacted anyone connected to Cristina Garcia, her staffers or her tenants."

In a statement, Garcia said the allegations, which now include accusations she pressured a subordinate to play “spin the bottle” and that she groped a legislative staffer, are part of a “concerted effort to discredit” her.

The disclosures cap two weeks' worth of allegations and counterclaims between Garcia and former Assembly staffers, centering around an incident first reported by Politico detailing an alleged sexual assault.

A lawyer representing one of Garcia's publicly identified accusers, David Kernick, says he has also been retained by three other people who accuse the assemblywoman of harassment or assault.

In a letter to the state accompanying a legal claim that lays the groundwork for a lawsuit, attorney Dan Gilleon wrote that he would not share his other clients' identities with Assembly investigators until he was assured they will not be identified publicly.

Gilleon also accused Tim Reardon, Garcia's former chief of staff, of releasing confidential employment information about Kernick, who says he was fired after complaining about Garcia's alleged groping.

“Given this vicious but predictable attack on Mr. Kernick for speaking out, I am very concerned that my other three clients will be assaulted if Ms. Garcia learns their identities,” Gilleon wrote.

Gilleon portrays Garcia as someone who drinks to excess. In a telephone interview Wednesday, he repeatedly described the assemblywoman as someone who “gets hammered,” and noted that Garcia kept a keg in her office.

Riordan, Garcia's former chief of staff, challenged Gilleon's characterizations.

“This wasn’t a frat party,” Reardon said, adding he believes an Assembly investigation will clear his former boss. “I would stake my reputation, my life’s work on it."

He added: “It looks highly probable [Garcia]’s being set up. These allegations are so out of character with everything I know of her, it doesn’t seem plausible.”

Gilleon dismissed Reardon's and Garcia's denials.

“Everything is a hoax or conspiracy with them,” Gilleon said. “They have to talk about things other than the facts. A man was criminally sexually assaulted. We have evidence, we did our due diligence, and we found out what happened.”

Clarification: This article originally described Oakland freelance journalist Joe Mullin as an investigator looking into the background of Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia. Mullin disputes that characterization. This article has been edited to clarify that Mullin submitted a California Public Records Act request for information on Garcia and that he shared the record request with a research group that has suggested it is investigating the assemblywoman.

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