California Dem State Senator Resigns Over Sexual Harassment Allegations

Tony Mendoza pens defiant letter accusing de Leon of wanting his 'head on a platter' for the #MeToo movement

The California State Capitol / Getty Images
• February 22, 2018 4:10 pm


A California Democratic state senator who was facing potential expulsion over sexual harassment allegations abruptly resigned Thursday.

Sen. Tony Mendoza, who represented a Los Angeles suburb, announced his resignation in a defiant letter distributed to colleagues in which he lashed out at his Democratic leadership for trying to make him an example of their support for the "#MeToo" movement.

"I shall resign my position as senator with immediate effect as it is clear that Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon will not rest until he has my head on a platter to convince the MeToo movement of his ‘sincerity' in supporting the MeToo cause," he wrote in the letter.

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, the top official in the California legislature, is currently challenging Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.). De Leon and Mendoza were friends and previously shared a Sacramento apartment before the allegations of sexual harassment, at least one of which allegedly took place in the apartment, surfaced against Mendoza.

The decision comes the same day his state Senate colleagues were meeting to weigh an unprecedented expulsion vote against Mendoza just days after the body released the findings of a two-month investigation that concluded Mendoza "more likely than not" engaged in "unwanted flirtatious or sexually suggestive behavior" against six women, including four subordinates, over the last 10 years.

De Leon drafted the Senate expulsion resolution, which referred to a newly established "zero-tolerance" policy on sexual harassment.

The investigation, conducted by two outside law firms at the Senate's request, found that Mendoza offered a 19-year-old intern alcohol in a hotel suite at a Democratic Party event, suggested that an employee go on a vacation to Hawaii and share a room with him and last year invited a Senate fellow to come to his apartment "under the guise of reviewing resumes of candidates for a full-time legislative position for which she was an applicant, when he had little intention of hiring her for the position."

In Mendoza's letter, a copy of which is circulating on Twitter, he said the investigation was secretive and violated Senate transparency rules and due process.

"I refuse to participate any further in the farcical ‘investigation' against me that ignores the Senate's own rules, invents processes, criteria, and standards as needed, ignores due process and constitutional rights to self-defense all for the purpose of playing to election year politicking," he wrote.

He said de Leon "ordered up a secret investigation" and complained that he did not have any opportunity to defend himself.

"The results were reported using the lowest standard of proof—'more likely than not'—but asking for the highest penalty, expulsion," he continued.

He argued that Senate rules have required him to stay silent since November and to give up leadership positions, go on administrative leave, and "essentially disappear from Sacramento."

"Now, with over a quarter of Democratic senators either running for statewide office or under investigation, I cannot expect any fairness or justice," he said. "This is particularly true as a large number of my mostly male colleagues from either party are concerned at the prospect of being accused of ‘protecting' me."

Mendoza said he unconditionally apologized in November "to any person who felt uncomfortable by my interactions with any of them."

He said the findings of the investigation "do not comport with my recollection nor perception of the events described." Nevertheless, he said he is "immensely sorry if my words or actions ever made anyone feel uncomfortable."

"It was always my intention to be personable with my staff, show an interest in their lives outside of the office, and assist them as best I could with their career development," he said.

Published under: California, Sexual Harassment