WOODLAND HILLS (CBSLA/AP) — The California Assembly plans to investigate a sexual misconduct allegation against Los Angeles Assemblyman Matt Dababneh.
Dababneh, 36, strongly denied the allegations made by Pamela Lopez at a news conference Monday, saying, “I affirmatively deny that this event ever happened — at any time.”
The Assembly will hire an outside law firm to investigate the claim by Lopez, a Sacramento lobbyist.
In a complaint letter filed with the Assembly Rules Committee, Lopez said the alleged incident took place in January 2016 at a friend’s wedding celebration at a Las Vegas hotel.
According to Lopez, she was cornered in a bathroom as Dababneh “stood blocking the door and began to masturbate and move toward me, urging me to touch him.”
“When I went to the bathroom after being at the party for a few hours, I felt the weight of a body push me into the restroom,” she wrote. “I heard the door slam behind us. When I turned around, I saw Matt Dababneh. He stood blocking the door and began to masturbate and move toward me, urging me to touch him.
“It was a terrifying experience,” she wrote. “During the time he blocked me in that room, my instincts were focused on escaping without any physical contact and in a way that would not cause a scene. Before the ordeal ended, he told me not to tell anyone.”
Ken Maxey, a friend of Dababneh who says he was with the lawmaker at the party for a “majority” of the night, told the Los Angeles Times he did not recall Dababneh using the bathroom, adding that the layout of the room where the party was located would make it unlikely for such an incident to go unnoticed.
Lopez says she decided to go public with the allegations following a call by the Assembly Rules Committee for alleged victims to come forward and name names.
“There are other women who have been sexually harassed by Matt Dababneh,” said Lopez. “And I can’t have it on my conscious that this may happen again.”
Lopez was joined Monday by Jessica Yas Barker, who worked under Dababneh during his stint as district chief of staff for Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks, in 2009-10.
Dababneh was known for his sexually charged comments in the office and inappropriate conduct, according to Barker.
“It was pretty much an open secret in the San Fernando Valley that this is how Matt behaved,” Barker said. “Unfortunately, it was largely brushed off.
“Just this last weekend, I met a woman who told me that her daughter is interning in Matt’s office,” she said. “All I could think to tell her was to get her out of there as quickly as possible.”
The allegations are the latest to rock both Hollywood and Sacramento where legislative leaders are vowing to crack down
on misconduct after another Democratic Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra of Pacoima resigned in response to harassment allegations by a series of women.
Another lawmaker, Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, was stripped of his legislative leadership positions pending an investigation into harassment allegations.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)