Lawmaker accused of firing aide who refused kissing game


Ms GarciaImage copyright
California Assembly

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Cristina Garcia has previously said alcohol is not an acceptable excuse for sexual misconduct

A state lawmaker who rose to national prominence as a campaigner against sexual assault is accused of firing an aide who refused to play “spin the bottle”, according to court papers.

David John Kernick filed a complaint against California Democrat Cristina Garcia about the alleged 2014 incident.

He claims she wrote him up for insubordination and fired him two days after he refused to play the game.

Ms Garcia has denied previous allegations against her.

Mr Kernick said in the complaint that Ms Garcia, who was featured in a Time magazine profile of #MeToo victims last year, approached him at fundraiser at a whiskey bar and invited him to sit on her hotel room floor to play the kissing game.

The latest complaint against Ms Garcia accuses her of disciplining Mr Kernick “with a write up for insubordination” before firing him two days later.

He described his time working as a field representative for the California assemblywoman as “extremely stressful”, claiming she used vulgar language and discussed inappropriate topics at work.

Ms Garcia was first accused of harassment by former aide Daniel Fierro, who said a drunken Ms Garcia cornered him after an annual legislative softball game in 2014 in the team dugout.

He claims Ms Garcia stroked his back, squeezed his buttocks and attempted to grab his crotch.

Mr Fierro told Politico he did not originally report the incident. He said he was 25 years old at the time.

When the allegations first emerged, Ms Garcia said she had “zero recollection of engaging in inappropriate behaviour”.

“Such behaviour is inconsistent with my values,” she added.

Ms Garcia, who was elected in 2012 and chairs the Legislative Women’s Caucus and the Natural Resources Committee, pledged to participate in any sexual harassment investigation.

“Every complaint about sexual harassment should be taken seriously,” she said.

But in a follow-up statement, the influential Los Angeles-area lawmaker added: “Upon reflection of the details alleged, I am certain I did not engage in the behaviour I am accused of.”

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Getty Images

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Garcia receives a commemorative Girl Scout pin

The claims come months after the lawmaker told the New York Times she had experienced sexual harassment.

“Multiple people have grabbed my butt and grabbed my breasts,” she said about alleged incidents in the state capital of Sacramento.

“We’re talking about senior lobbyists and lawmakers.”

Her story later featured in Time magazine’s issue honouring “silence breakers”.

In a November interview with the Associated Press news agency about alcohol at political fundraisers, Ms Garcia said that blaming drink is not an acceptable excuse for inappropriate sexual behaviour.

“I would say that most of the public realises that our job is based on relationships, and so we are expected to go out there and socialise,” she said.

“I think our public also expects us to hold ourselves to a higher standard.”

Ms Garcia announced on 9 February that she will take leave of absence during the inquiry.

She says she volunteered for an unpaid leave of absence “so as not to serve as a distraction or in any way influence the process of this investigation”, adding that she looks forward to returning to work.


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