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San Fernando Valley Assemblyman Was Disciplined In 2009 For Sexual Harassment

Raul Bocanegra. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
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California Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra was disciplined after a female Capitol staffer accused him of “inappropriate and unwelcome physical contact" in 2009, the L.A. Times reports.

Bocanegra now represents California's 39th Assembly District, which encompasses the northeastern San Fernando Valley, but he was serving as chief of staff to then-Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes at the time of the alleged incident, according to the L.A. Times report published Friday. Capitol staffer Elise Gyore filed a human resources complaint the day after Bocanegra allegedly "groped her and followed her in a manner she found threatening" at an after-work event.

Gyore said the alleged 2009 incident took place at Mix nightclub in Sacramento, where Capitol employees would sometimes socialize after work; Gyore claimed Bocanegra, who she had never met prior to that night, "reached his hands in her blouse “very aggressively" and continued to pursue her after she said no, telling him she was married. Gyore reported the incident the next day, setting off an investigation for which the Assembly Rules Committee hired outside attorneys and interviewed 13 people, according to the Times.

In a letter dated June 2, 2009, which was also published by the Times, California State Assembly Chief Administrative Officer Jon Waldie tells Gyore that although the Assembly's investigation into Gyore's complaint turned up no first-hand witnesses or video evidence, "it is more likely than not that Mr. Bocanegra engaged in behavior that night which does not meet the Assembly's expectations for professionalism." The letter noted that Bocanegra would be barred from communicating with Gyore at work or social events, and asked Gyore to notify the Assembly immediately if she believed anyone was retaliating against her for reporting Bocanegra.

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The Times story quotes a statement of apology made by Bocanegra on Friday, in which he said,

"This unfortunate experience I was involved in as a staffer nearly 10 years ago was something I regret and learned from. As to the complaint filed, I fully cooperated with the investigation and after a comprehensive review by an independent body, which included interviews of over a dozen witnesses, the investigation was closed."

When Bocanegra faced off against L.A. City Councilman Richard Alarcon for his State Assembly seat in 2012, L.A. Weekly published a letter from a group of women calling for the 2009 sexual harassment claim against Bocanegra to be made public. According to the L.A. Times, Gyore did not want to go public in 2012, but chose to speak out about her experience with Bocanegra recently, saying,

"This is becoming ridiculous. I’m tired of being quiet to protect bad actors. I’m tired of that. As women, we’re tired of that."

LAist reached out to Assemblyman Bocanegra's office for further comment, but did not immediately hear back.