Raul Bocanegra

Name: Raul Bocanegra

Age: 46 (in 2017)

Role: CA State Assemblyperson

Accusations

Seven women – Elise Flynn Gyore, Sylvia Castillo, Jennifer Borobia, Camille Pili-Jose and 3 women who asked to remain anonymous – were sexually harassed by Bocanegra from 2009 – 2014.
The LA Times, Nov 17, 2017, by Melanie Mason and Dakota Smith
The Sacramento Bee, Nov 20, 2017, by Alexei Koseff

Elise Flynn Gyore, who worked as a staffer for a state senator at the time, alleged that Bocanegra “put his hands into her blouse” outside of a bathroom at a night club in Sacramento in 2009. She reported it to the Senate sargeant the next day. The Senate sargeant immediately opened an investigation which concluded that it was “more likely than not that Mr. Bocanegra engaged in [that] behavior that night.”

While Bocanegra claimed at various times that he “learned his lesson” from the incident – and promised he wouldn’t do it again – he went on to harass six additional women:

Sylvia Castillo, describing an incident in 2010 with Bocanegra: “He grabbed me with one hand, grabbed my head and shoved his tongue into my mouth,” Castillo said in an interview this month. “With his other hand, he put it up my dress. I put my hand down to stop him from trying to grab at my crotch.” Castillo knew Bocanegra, as she worked as a coordinator for a student mentorship program in Sacramento.

Jennifer Borobia, a former staffer for Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, said that starting around 2009 and continuing for multiple years, Bocanegra began asking her out on dates via email and text. She said he would tell her she was pretty and make other comments about her appearance. She rejected the invitations, but worried rebuffing Fuentes’ chief of staff too strongly could threaten her job.

Camille Pili-Jose, who also worked for Fuentes at the time, was at a birthday lunch for Guzman in 2012. Everyone was drinking, and when after much prompting Pili-Jose took a shot, Bocanegra put his hand on her stomach. She was so startled and flustered, she spit out the shot.

Later that same afternoon, Bocanegra removed a bracelet from a different staffer’s wrist, put it in his front pocket, and told her to retrive it. Multiple people witnessed both incidents. Gabriela Correa witnessed both incidents, and immediately lost enthusiasm for her work as a result, and was soon reprimanded for poor work performance.

Bocanegra’s Resignation Statement:  

“I did not want to undermine the credibility of any accusers so that each of us would have access to a fair due process. I believed in our system of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and that the truth would come out clearing my name and reputation,” he wrote. “But clearly, the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ has been temporarily lost in a hurricane of political opportunism among the self-righteous in my case – to the detriment of both the accuser and the accused.”

In her own words: Women of California politics tell their stories

Here are selected stories from the more than 140 women who signed a searing open letter about a culture of sexual harassment in Sacramento, released in mid-October, 2017.

The Los Angeles Times, Oct 29, 2017, by Chris Megerian, Melanie Mason, Dakota Smith and Jack Dolan

Jessica Yas Barker, Director of corporate relations for Ovation, an independent television network

“The campaign manager said we should go out for my birthday. I assumed he meant a group of us from the office. At his house, no one else was there. He grabbed me by both of my shoulders and tried to kiss me. I realized he didn’t want to be my friend or mentor; he just wanted sex.”

~ Jessica Yas Barker

Amy Thoma Tan, Director of public affairs at Kaiser Permanente

“I was 22, straight out of college. Some of our senior staff and funders were guys who would make comments like ‘yeah, I’ll approve your press release if you take your shirt off’ or they’d make jokes about my body.

“When I quit and moved to Sacramento, one of the guys said, ‘Your work was good, but what I’ll miss the most is your tight butt.’

“I don’t think I even knew at the time that that wasn’t OK. If I had known that, I’m not sure who I would’ve gone to because it’s a problem all the way up.

“If something happened now, I have 15 years of work and relationships to back me up. At that time, I was so desperate to prove myself. It was just terrifying. Or you just think, this is the way the world works, and that’s what I have to endure to work in the world.”

~ Amy Thoma Tan

Paula Treat, Lobbyist

“In the early 80s, I went out to dinner with a legislator who chaired a powerful committee.

“I was going to get in my car. He reached over and started kissing me. I said, ‘No. This isn’t my idea of what kind of relationship we should have.’

“He said, ‘Well, fine then. If you don’t sleep with me, I’m going to kill all your bills.’ I got in the car and locked the door.

“And then he killed a whole bunch of my bills. He made my life pretty miserable for about a year.”

~ Paula Treat

Cynthia Bryant, Executive director of the California Republican Party

“A lobbyist kissed me on the head every time he saw me for an entire year in my last government job at the Department of Finance.”

“It’s disgusting. It feels gross. You roll your eyes and cringe inside and then you laugh it off and say, that’s OK. But it’s not OK. It’s unwanted physical touching, and it’s harassment.”

~ Cynthia Bryant

Tina McKinnor, Operational director, California Democratic Party

A very powerful elected official walked up behind Assemblywoman Burke [for whom McKinnor was the Chief of Staff] and rub her shoulders at a dinner, intimately.

“I didn’t know what to say to this guy so I turned around and looked at him. I gave him the ‘older black woman’ stare. I made him so uncomfortable that he stopped.”

No one said anything, she said.

“It made us angry. But surprisingly not angry enough to speak up. It was an accepted behavior, which it shouldn’t have been. What we did is, we just avoided the person.… As a staffer, it hurts that’s the staffing that you had to do.”

~ Tina McKinnor

Adama Iwu, Government affairs manager for the western U.S. for Visa

“Men feel they have the right to grab you, tell really lewd stories in front of you.

You have to act like one of the boys. You absolutely — in order to be trusted and be part of the crowd — you have to act like one of the boys. So you laugh off lewd jokes, you laugh off sexual innuendos, you make excuses for men.

“One boss congratulated me on my new job, saying, ‘We’re so thrilled with you, Adama, We knew you had great relationships, but we never expected you’d be able to grasp the subject matter the way you have.’

“I just looked at him thinking, ‘You thought I was just a pretty face.’ Those kinds of things really do wear on women. Those aren’t the things that they would say to a man.”

~ Adama Iwu

Lindsay Bubar, Los Angeles-based political consultant

“I’ve taken meetings that I thought were professional get-togethers, only to discover he had different intentions.

“If you call out that type of behavior, you’re faced with hurting the relationship with someone that you need to have a relationship with, someone you need to have access to.

“When you have more women in [elected] office, you shift the balance of power. No longer is it men who are harassing or assaulting women and women feeling like they can’t speak out for fear of losing their seat at the table.

“Now, it’s the women who have the power in that dynamic.

~ Lindsay Bubar

Amber Maltbie, elections attorney and chair of the board of Emerge California

I was having a networking dinner five years ago with a legislator’s chief of staff when he swooped in behind me and went in to kiss me.

“I was thinking, ‘How do I get out of this graciously without embarrassing him because I need this relationship down the road?’ ”

~ Amber Maltbie

Roxanne Gould, lobbyist

“The state assemblyman, a member of the banking committee, was sitting in an auditorium before a speech. I sat down beside him to ask if there was anything I could do for him before his presentation.

“The only thing you can do for me is give me a good f—.’

“He was an ultra-conservative family man, and the coarseness caught me off guard.

“More typical examples of unwanted attention are the legislator who ran his foot up and down my leg under a table, or another who kept texting me messages such as, “Am I too fat? Too skinny? Are you too pretty? Am I not good enough?

“That’s not as egregious, but these are people in power making it far too difficult to do your job.”

~ Roxanne Gould

Matt Dababneh

Name: Matt Dababneh

Age: 36 (in 2017)

Role: Member of the California State Assembly

Accusations: Pamela Lopez, a Sacramento lobbyist, alleged that Dababneh sexually assaulted her. According to Lopez, in 2016 Dababneh pushed her into a Las Vegas hotel bathroom, masturbated in front of her and urged her to touch him.

Jessica Y. Barker, who was Dababneh’s subordinate when they both worked in US Congressman Brad Sherman’s District Office, also came forward and accused Dababneh of sexual harassment. Barker asserts that she has talked to other women who Dababneh has also harassed.

Nancy Miret, 26, spent time with Dababneh over two months in late 2013, primarily at his Encino apartment. They had consensual sex on one occasion, but after that, Miret said she had multiple nonconsensual sexual encounters with Dababneh. “If you’re saying ‘No, no, no, no,’ and you stop and then you’re quiet, you still never gave consent,” Miret said. LA Times, Dc 14, 2017, by Melanie Mason

Jenn Kang said Dababneh was her supervisor in 2004 when, as an 18-year-old just out of high school, she worked on the Kerry campaign in a Pasadena field office. She alleged that Dababneh exposed his penis to her and asked her to touch or perform oral sex on him. He told her he had feelings for her, and asked if she was a virgin. “I wanted to jump out of my skin,” she said. LA Times, Dc 14, 2017, by Melanie Mason

Carrie McFadden, who worked with Dababneh when he was the Chief of Staff for Rep Brad Sherman, said Dababneh would regularly talk about his sex life during his frequent visits. He once offered her a raise if she could convince a UCLA student to have sex with him. McFadden did not report the incident to her boss, but she confided in two friends. LA Times, Dc 14, 2017, by Melanie Mason.

Immediate Consequences:  On December 5, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon announced that the Assembly Rules Committee would hire an outside law firm to investigate the incident described by Pamela Lopez, and Dababneh would temporarily step down as chair of the Assembly Banking and Finance Committee.

Dababneh’s Initial Response:  Dababneh announced his resignation effective Jan 1, 2018. He said it wasn’t because of the allegations, but just because he had lost interest in being a lawmaker. Dababneh has strongly denied the accusations and threatened to file defamation lawsuits against his accusers.

Updates & Developments

August 27, 2018: Legislative investigation substantiates sexual misconduct complaint against ex-Assemblyman Matt Dababneh, LA Times, by Melanie Mason

Don Shooter

Name: Don Shooter

Age: 65 (in 2017)

Role: Arizona State Legislator

Accusations: Nine women, including State Representatives Michelle Ugenti-RitaWenona Benally and Athena Salman and Mi-Ai Parrish, publisher of the Arizona Republic, have accused Shooter of sexual harassment.

Immediate Consequences:  On February 1, 2018, the Arizona House of Representatives voted 56-3 to expel Rep. Shooter. The House approved a resolution stating that “the House of Representatives finds that Representative Don Shooter’s pattern of conduct was dishonorable and unbecoming of a member.”

Shooter’s Initial Response:  

Shooter’s Evolving Response

Zach Fansler

Name: Zach Fansler

Role: Alaska State Rep

Accusations: Hit an unnamed woman hard enough to rupture her eardrum, during a drunken sexual encounter, The Juneau Empire, Jan 25, 2018

Immediate Consequences:  Fansler resigned effective Feb 2, 2018, KTOO.org, by Andrew Kitchenman

Fansler’s Initial Response:  He said he believed his behavior was a part of consensual kink/bdsm bedroom play, according to texts between Fansler and the woman the next day

Fansler’s Evolving Response: Fansler pleaded guilty Thursday to second-degree harassment. He received 10-day suspended sentence and a year of probation, KTOO.org and Alaska Public Media, June 21, 2018, by Andrew Kitchenman

Dean Westlake

Name: Dean Westlake

Age: 57 (in 2017)

Role: State Senator, Alaska

Accusations: Seven women who are current or former aides at the Alaska Capitol say a member of the state House of Representatives repeatedly made unwanted sexual advances toward them or otherwise behaved inappropriately during this year’s legislative sessions, Anchorage Daily News, Dec 9, 2017, by Julia O’Malley

The women, who asked not to be identified for fear of professional repercussions, described Westlake giving lingering hugs, making sexual comments, asking for dates and touching them inappropriately.

The only woman who spoke on the record is Olivia Garrett, 23. She described Westlake’s inappropriate behavior in a letter to the Speaker of the Alaska State House, Bryce Edgmon, on March 13, 2017. Westlake’s behavior continued after this letter was received.

Immediate Consequences:  Westlake was asked to resign. After initially resisting, he submitted his resignation letter on Dec 15, 2017

Westlake’s Initial Response:  He refused calls for his resignation, asserting that his “friendly or funny” overtures were not interpreted the way he had intended and apologizing. Anchorage Daily News, Dec 12, 2017, by Julia O’Malley

Westlake’s Evolving Response: When he finally resigned he said: “Some people are angry with me; more are disappointed. I am too. To the women who came forward, thank you for telling your story. I am inspired by your bravery, and I am sorry for the pain I have caused. To my constituents, I am sorry to have let you down. These allegations do not reflect who I am, nor who I want to be. I will learn from this experience and be a better man because of it.” Read full text of Westlake’s resignation here.

Systemic Change: House Speaker Bryce Edgmon and House Majority Leader Chris Tuck encouraged “all victims to come forward and make a formal report.” They further said in a statement,

“It has become clear through this process that the Legislature’s culture, policies, and institutions do a poor job of protecting workers,” Tuck said, according to the statement. “We are committed to designing and implementing a clear policy to train every legislator and staff so there is no confusion about putting it into practice. This is crucial to restoring faith in the institution of the Alaska Legislature.”