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California Democrat facing possible discipline after sexual misconduct allegations

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Members of the California state Senate are scheduled Wednesday to consider disciplinary action against a Democrat who “more likely than not” made inappropriate sexual advances toward six women, including four subordinates.

The allegations against Sen. Tony Mendoza were the subject of a recently concluded independent investigation.

Investigators spoke to 47 witnesses, including Mendoza, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The findings, released Tuesday, that found Mendoza “more likely than not” engaged in behavior such as offering a 19-year-old intern alcohol in a hotel suite at a Democratic Party event, suggesting a young woman in a Senate fellowship take a vacation with him and rent a room in his house, and asked several of the women about their dating lives.

Several accusations against Mendoza first became public last fall in a report by the Sacramento Bee. Under pressure from other lawmakers, Mendoza took a leave of absence. He was suspended after his leave of absence was expected to end before the independent investigation into the claims could be concluded.

Mendoza sued for reinstatement last Thursday, arguing the suspension was unconstitutional and he was being treated differently than other colleagues also under investigation.

The California Legislature is one of many statehouses nationwide grappling with a tidal wave of sexual misconduct allegations following the #MeToo movement in which millions of women shared their experiences with sexual harassment or assault on social media.

Mendoza is the only lawmaker who has been suspended since allegations of sexual misconduct at the Capitol broke last fall. Two assemblymen voluntarily resigned, and their seats haven’t been filled.

Democratic Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, who has denied accusations including groping, took a voluntary leave of absence last Friday.

Sen. Bob Hertzberg is also facing an investigation after at least three female colleagues alleged he made them uncomfortable with hugs. He has not been asked to step aside.

As early as Thursday, the chamber could vote to censure, expel, suspend or reinstate Mendoza.

Mendoza called the investigation “unfair and secret.” He warned action against him by his colleagues could set a “dangerous precedent.”

“Past precedent has been to only expel members who have been convicted of a felony,” Mendoza said in a statement released late Tuesday. “This raises the stakes for future perceived infractions by members of this body.”

Mendoza will be allowed to defend himself on the Senate floor.

The investigation found no instances of Mendoza being “physically aggressive” or “sexually crude.” But the women “understood that Mendoza was suggesting sexual contact,” the report said.

In two cases, the report found the Los Angeles-area senator stopped when asked by either the woman or human resources staff.

The investigation does not name any of the women, although some have previously spoken to media. Four worked for Mendoza, while a fifth is a lobbyist and a sixth was a Senate fellow in another office.

The incidents span from 2007 to 2017, covering both Mendoza’s time in the Assembly and in the Senate.

The investigation outlines three other cases that weren’t publicly known.

It cleared him of allegations he fired three staff members who reported his behavior toward the Senate fellow last fall. One of the former employees has filed a complaint with the state alleging retaliation.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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New York AG sends notice to Cuomo to preserve documents in sexual harassment probe

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New York Attorney General Letitia James said Friday that her office had sent a notice to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office asking it to preserve any records or files that may be relevant to the investigation into sexual harassment claims against the Democratic governor.

The preservation request, a relatively standard part of law enforcement procedure at this stage of any inquiry, was made for members of Cuomo’s staff including aides and includes electronic communications as well, a spokesperson for James confirmed to NBC News.

This comes as James formally launched an investigation earlier this week into sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo.

Cuomo on Wednesday publicly addressed the claims, apologizing for remarks he said “made people feel uncomfortable.”

“I fully support a woman’s right to come forward. And I think it should be encouraged in every way,” he said. “I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional. And I truly and deeply apologize for it.”

“I feel awful about it,” Cuomo said. “And frankly, I am embarrassed by it. And that’s not easy to say. But that’s the truth. But this is what I want you to know, and I want you to know this from me directly. I never touched anyone inappropriately.”

He then pleaded with New Yorkers “to wait for the facts from the attorney general’s report before forming an opinion.”

As of Friday, three women have accused the governor of inappropriate behavior.

Lindsey Boylan, a deputy secretary for economic development and special adviser to Cuomo from 2015 to 2018, wrote in an essay on the website Medium last month that she had been subjected to “pervasive harassment” when she worked for him, including being asked to “play strip poker” and receiving an unwanted kiss on the mouth. Cuomo press secretary Caitlin Girouard called Boylan’s allegations “quite simply false.”

Another former aide, Charlotte Bennett, told The New York Times in an interview published last week that Cuomo made several inappropriate remarks about her sex life, which she said she interpreted as an overture. Cuomo has denied that he was attempting to make an overture.

This week, Anna Ruch, 33, told The New York Times in an article published Monday that she felt “uncomfortable and embarrassed” when Cuomo placed his hands on her face and asked to kiss her at a wedding in 2019. The story included a photograph that appears to show the moment.

On Monday AG James’ office received a referral letter from Cuomo’s office authorizing her to “conduct an inquiry into allegations of and circumstances surrounding sexual harassment claims made against the Governor.”

Cuomo responded to Ruch’s account and the photo evidence of it, calling the gesture his “customary way of greeting.”

James’ office is expected to name a private attorney or attorneys in the coming days or weeks who will conduct the inquiry and prepare a final public report. James also said the findings would be disclosed in a public report.

Rich Azzopardi, a senior adviser to Cuomo, tweeted Friday shortly after the confirmation from James’ office that the governor will comply with the notice.

“We received this request March 1 and our counsel’s office acted promptly and notified all chamber staff of their obligations associated with that,” he said.



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EU's devastating role in triggering Black Wednesday laid bare – 'Torpedoed the pound!'

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THE UK was plunged into an economic crisis in September 1992 and an expert has claimed the EU was partly to blame for triggering the financial crash.

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Budget 2021: Sunak blasted for 'wasteful' freeports plan

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BUDGET 2021 saw Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveil fiscal policy support designed to help the country weather the final months of lockdown and beyond. However, one of his policies, an extension of “freeports”, has been branded a “wasteful” use of taxpayer money.

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