US & Canada

Lawmaker accused of firing aide who refused kissing game

Ms Garcia Image copyright California Assembly
Image caption 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 says she disciplined him for insubordination and fired him after he refused to play the game.

Ms Garcia has denied previous allegations against her.

On Tuesday she issued another statement to deny all the claims against her.

"These accusations are simply not true," she said, "and are inconsistent with my personal value system and how I seek to conduct myself as an elected official.

"I believe these accusations are part of a concerted effort to discredit my person and record as a legislator."

Ms Garcia featured in a Time magazine profile of #MeToo victims last year.

What is Ms Garcia accused of?

Mr Kernick said in the complaint that she had approached him during a whisky bar fundraiser and invited him to sit on her hotel room floor to play the kissing game.

The complaint alleges Ms Garcia disciplined 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 had cornered him after an annual legislative softball game in 2014 in the team dugout.

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

Mr Fierro told Politico he had not originally reported the incident. He was 25 years old at the time, he added.

Who is Ms Garcia?

When the allegations first emerged, she 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."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Garcia receives a commemorative Girl Scout pin

The allegations 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."

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

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

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