Cisneros Campaign Manager Resigns Same Day Fellow Dem Withdraws Harassment Complaint

Fazli withdraws complaint after meeting, calls dispute a 'misunderstanding' 

Gil Cisneros
Gil Cisneros / Cisneros for Congress

The campaign manager for Gil Cisneros, a Democratic congressional candidate in California, abruptly resigned Monday the same day Cisneros announced that a woman who accused him of sexual harassment had withdrawn her complaint.

Cisneros' former campaign manager Orrin Evans, who is known for his aggressive style and who has publicly berated journalists for writing about the allegations from the woman, a fellow Democrat, Monday morning announced on Twitter that he was resigning his position, effective immediately.

"Congratulations to @NicJordan31! Please direct all inquiries regarding @GilCisnerosCA to nic@cisnerosforcongress.com#CA39," Evans tweeted.

Cisneros, who is in a tight race against GOP candidate Young Kim, hours earlier jointly released a statement from his accuser, Melissa Fazli, a Democratic activist and unsuccessful candidate for California Assembly earlier this year. Fazli said in the statement she had sat down with Cisneros on Sunday and agreed after their discussion to withdraw her complaint.

Fazli said another Democratic community leader, Mirvette Judeh, had set up the meeting because she believed an ad and mailers from a GOP-backed political action committee featuring Fazli's sexual harassment allegations was damaging the candidate because voters were misinterpreting them to mean that Cisneros had raped or sexually assaulted her.

Fazli emphasized in her statement that she was not paid to withdraw her sexual harassment complaint against Cisneros.

"I appreciate Mirvette Judehs opening a line of communication with myself and Gil Cisneros and arranging a meeting to discuss our previous interactions," Fazli said in the statement released by the campaign. "I misunderstood the conversations that I had with Gil Cisneros at the Democratic convention and after.

"I don't believe that Gil sexually harassed me," she said. "The Congressional Leadership Fund lied. Rather than standing with victims and survivors of harassment and assault, they are weaponizing my story for their own political gain. I denounce their ads. Emotions, anxiety, and stress have multiplied 100-fold for women like myself during this #MeToo movement. I believe Mr. Cisneros has a good heart and is truly sorry for the handling of my accusations."

Fazli repeatedly stood by her allegations during conversations with the Washington Free Beacon in recent weeks, up until Sunday when the meeting occurred. Fazli accused Cisneros of attempting a sexual "pay to play" outside an elevator during the Democratic Party convention in San Diego in February.

She had said she believed Cisneros was asking her for sex in exchange for a $4,400 campaign contribution to her campaign for assembly.

Prior to her withdrawing the allegations, Fazli also complained of an aggressive pressure campaign from within the California Democratic Party to try to stop her from talking about her experiences with Cisneros.

Separately, Fazli on Monday released a statement to the Free Beacon saying she made the decision to meet with Cisneros and withdraw her complaint because Judeh had come to her and told her "that some people thought Gil Cisneros had raped me because of the salacious [GOP ads]."

"As a mother of three sons, it was my civic duty to make sure it was clear that he did not rape me. There was no money involved at all but only a sincere apology from Gil for all the misunderstandings, which I accepted wholeheartedly."

Fazli had repeatedly taken issue with a lengthy statement from the Cisneros campaign in late August that aimed to dispute her timeline of when the sexual harassment allegedly occurred. The statement quoted eyewitnesses who said Cisneros was not drunk and disputed her timeline about when the two interacted outside a hotel elevator in February.

The two sides also disputed whether Cisneros campaign aide Thomas Rivera was present when the alleged encounter and conversation outside the elevator took place, with Fazli arguing that he was not present while Cisneros and she were talking.

Leading up to her decision to withdraw the sexual harassment complaint, Fazli also blamed Evans for the aggressive way he publicly disputed her account and the timeline the campaign released. She called on Cisneros himself to speak to the allegations.

Both sides refused to discuss the details of the allegation after they both agreed it was a misunderstanding.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a Super PAC closely aligned with Republican leaders, released an #MeToo-themed ad in early September arguing that "Time's up" for Cisneros. The ad did not claim that he raped or sexually assaulted anyone.

"Gil Cisneros thinks the rules don't apply to him," Courtney Alexander, CLF's communications director said in a statement. "Gil Cisneros has been accused of sexually harassing a fellow California Democrat, inviting himself to her hotel room and demanding sex in exchange for funds. California voters deserve better than Gil Cisneros."

Republicans also have funded at least two mailers about Fazli's accusations, arguing that "In the #MeToo era, Women Can't Trust Gil Cisneros to Stand Up For Them."

"Sleazy Cisneros Won't Stand Up For Women. Stop Him November 6!"

The Cisneros campaign did not immediately return a request for comment.