State Senate Changes Handling Of Sex Assault Allegations As Mendoza Faces New Claims Of Misconduct

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A California State Senate committee has announced new rules on how sexual assault allegations will be handled amid new claims of misconduct against a Los Angeles-area senator.

The California Senate Rules Committee late Sunday said when it comes to sexual harassment and misconduct, it will no longer police itself.

The announcement came as Artesia legislator Tony Mendoza once again faced accusations of acting inappropriately with a young woman – this time, with a former intern in 2008.

Jennifer Kwart tells the Sacramento Bee she was 19 when Mendoza got her to a convention alone, plied her with alcohol and made her so uncomfortable she invented a ruse to fly home.

Late Sunday night, CBS2/KCAL9 received an email from Mendoza’s office reading: “The allegation is completely false.”

But in a statement late Sunday, the California Senate Rules Committee wrote in part: “Today – in light of troubling allegations in the media against a sitting Senator … Effective immediately, Senate Rules will no longer be handling complaints of sexual abuse or assault. Instead, an independent outside legal team will investigate any and all allegations and make findings and recommendations to resolve and, where appropriate, discipline.”

The move comes after the committée itself was accused of retaliating against whistle-blowers.

A lawyer for a former Mendoza staffer says her client and two others were fired after they complained to the Senate Rules Committee that Mendoza was acting inappropriately toward a 23-year old fellow.

The Senate Rules Committe has denied the allegations.

Mendoza has also denied the allegations, saying he apologizes if he ever mis-communicated or made an employee feel uncomfortable.

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