Commerce councilman to challenge Cristina Garcia in Assembly race

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NORWALK – Ivan Altamirano has announced his intent to run for the 58th Assembly District.

The son of immigrant parents, 44-year-old Altamirano currently serves as Mayor Pro Tem for the City of Commerce.

Altamirano was appointed to City Council in 2012 to fill a vacant seat. He previously served as a Planning Commissioner.

“I didn’t have any political ties,” said Altamirano. “I filled out the application during one of the council meetings. They interviewed 23 of us and they chose me.”

He says he “hit the ground running.”

“Within three months I created something huge in our city…it’s called the Citadel Express Shuttle,” said Altamirano. “It’s a natural gas bus, and what it does is it travels from the Commerce Casino, to the Citadel, and then it goes to Union Station, L.A. Live, Staples Center, Bonaventure, major hotels and back every day. It became so successful that now we have two busses; one in Downtown and one in LA, and ridership is free.”

He was reelected for the first time in 2013, and once more last year.

Before taking that responsibility, however, Altamirano had a bit of a rough past.

“City of Commerce in the late 80’s and early 90’s, it became gang infested,” said Altamirano. “What happened was all of my friends started to join gangs…so I had no choice, they forced me into the gang and I got into a lot of trouble as a teen.”

Altamirano says that by the time he was 16, he was on probation. By 17, his first baby had been born. He dropped out of high school and ended up in juvenile hall.

“I had to really make a decision,” said Altamirano. “I started to look at the future and I started to see what has been happening with my friends…I said ‘I cannot do this.’”

From there, Altamirano went to Los Angeles Trade Tech, earning a GD and AS degree. He eventually started his own air conditioning and heating business and has since started buying investment homes in the City of Commerce.

“I know what it is to fail forward,” says Altamirano.

He is currently married with three children.

Now looking towards State Assembly, Altamirano says that his initial plan was to run several years down the line out of respect, however current circumstances surrounding the District have expedited his decision.

“Our goal was to run in four years,” said Altamirano. “It was the lack of representation and lack of leadership in our district. We felt compelled to run, to go out there and bring what the Southeast needs.”

He is running as a Democrat.

The 58th District consists of nine cities, including Artesia, Bell Gardens, Bellflower, Cerritos, Commerce, Downey, Montebello, Norwalk, and Pico Rivera.

Altamirano says he “understands these cities.”

“I grew up in this area all my life, in the City of Commerce born and raised,” said Altamirano. “I come from a city that works. We come from a city that we have one of the largest railroads…we have big issues here in the City of Commerce that also is through the Southeast, with traffic and local investment. We need people that are going to represent with leadership.”
Altamirano says “he cares.”

“The way I see my constituents is the way I see my kids, my family,” said Altamirano. “When I do something, it’s for everybody; it’s to make it work.”

Tony Mendoza resigns from California Senate

NORWALK – California State Sen. Tony Mendoza, accused of sexual misconduct by several women and facing expulsion from the Senate, resigned from the legislature Thursday. 

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His resignation comes just days after a Senate investigation found that Mendoza “more likely than not” engaged in unwanted flirtatious or sexually suggestive behavior with female staffers and interns. 

Late Wednesday, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles) introduced legislation to expel Mendoza from the Senate. No member of the California Legislature has been expelled since 1905.

Before the legislature could vote on the resolution, Mendoza resigned. 

“I shall resign my position as Senator with immediate effect as it is clear that Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon will not rest until he has my head on a platter to convince the #MeToo movement of his ‘sincerity’ in supporting the #MeToo cause,” Mendoza wrote in a letter. 

Although he resigned, Mendoza said he may still run to reclaim the seat later this year. 

“I intend to canvas my district to determine my candidacy for the Senate this year,” Mendoza said. 

The two-month investigation into Mendoza’s behavior was conducted by the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP at the request of the Rules Committee of the California State Senate in response to sexual misconduct allegations against Mendoza, who has denied the charges. A senate investigation found that embattled state Sen. Tony Mendoza “more likely than not” engaged in unwanted flirtatious or sexually suggestive behavior with female staffers and interns. 

Late Wednesday, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles) introduced legislation to expel Mendoza from the senate, the L.A. Times reported. No member of the California Legislature has been expelled since 1905.

The two-month investigation was conducted by the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP at the request of the Rules Committee of the California State Senate in response to sexual misconduct allegations against Mendoza, who has denied the charges. 

In a report revealing its findings, the law firm said it conducted 51 interviews with 47 witnesses. The report is labeled confidential but a copy was received by the Patriot.

“In the course of the investigation, witnesses we interviewed described multiple instances in which Mendoza engaged in a pattern of unwelcome flirtation and sexually suggestive behavior towards several female staff members and other women he interacted with at the Capitol,” the report states. “These incidents ranged from the 2007-2008 legislative session when Mendoza was in the Assembly, to the 2017-2018 session when he was in the Senate. 

“Many current and former staff members, particularly those in his District office, said they had neither witnessed nor heard of any inappropriate behavior by Senator Mendoza. It appears based on these interviews that he behaved appropriately and professionally towards female staff while he was in his District. However, we received reports of Mendoza engaging in inappropriate behavior while in Sacramento or on overnight trips.

“Over the course of the investigation, six women stated they personally experienced unwanted flirtatious or sexually suggestive behavior by Mendoza. Four of these women were working for Mendoza as staff members, interns, or fellows at the time of his conduct. None of these women alleged that they had a sexual relationship with Mendoza or that he had been physically aggressive or sexually crude towards them. However, the recipients of this unwelcome behavior understood that Mendoza was suggesting sexual contact. 

“Although none of the women reported that Mendoza explicitly threatened them or offered career benefits in exchange for sexual favors, the subordinate employees believed that complaining about his conduct could put their careers at risk.” 

Investigators found it “more likely than not” that in 2007, Mendoza was sexually suggestive with a female staff member, including asking her to share a room with him at an event in Hawaii. The staff member directly asked Mendoza to stop suggesting a sexual relationship and he “subsequently conformed his behavior.”

The investigation found that in 2008, Mendoza “more likely than not” was inappropriate with a 19-year-old intern who was staying in an adjoining room at the Democratic California Convention. Mendoza offered and drank alcoholic drinks with the woman in his hotel suite and asked her questions about her dating life, the report says. 

In 2010, Mendoza invited a female staff member to dinner or drinks and kissed her on the cheek after driving her home. The incident prompted an Assembly Human Resources representative to counsel Mendoza on his behavior. 

Investigators also discovered other incidents of sexually suggestive behavior: 

In 2014, Mendoza “more likely than not” was flirtatious with a Senate Fellow in his office, who was in her early twenties. Mendoza suggested she could rent a spare room in his house; suggested they could reserve just one room for an overnight event; invited her to come to his house at night under the guise of reviewing her resume despite having little intention of hiring her; and suggested they could go out to dinner or a movie. 

In 2015, Mendoza likely invited a different Fellow working in another legislator’s office to visit him at his home. In another incident that same year, Mendoza allegedly suggested to a lobbyist that they go out to dinner and asked what type of men she liked. 

Mendoza has consistently denied acting inappropriately. In a statement Tuesday, he criticized the Senate Rules Committee for shutting him out of the investigation process. 

“This inability to view and understand the accusations in a timely fashion rubs across the grain of fairness, impartiality and ultimately justice,” he said. 

“This government body must rise above and not be swayed by the court of public opinion, but rather, influenced to arrive at a conclusion based on facts and one of the basic tenants of our society, a due process that allows for a complete and thorough investigation procedure that then allows the accused to view and respond to the accusations in a timely manner,” Mendoza added.

“Unless we adhere to the pillar of fairness that serves as a key anchor of our American system of justice, we are condemned to repeating the mistakes of our past when due process was nothing more than a legal luxury reserved only for the well-heeled or mere legal folly.”

Assemblymember denies charges she pressured employees to play spin the bottle

NORWALK – Assemblymember Cristina Garcia is denying new allegations that she presided over a “toxic” office in Sacramento, drinking alcohol during work hours and pressuring staff members to play spin the bottle. 

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David John Kernick, who worked for Garcia for five months in 2014, made the allegations last week in a formal complaint to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. 
Kernick claims he was fired after objecting to playing spin the bottle after a political fundraiser. 

In his complaint, Kernick says Garcia and about six other people were sitting on the floor inside a hotel room after a night of heavy drinking. That’s when Garcia pushed for a game of spin the bottle, in which participants spin a bottle on the floor and kiss whoever the bottle points to. 

“It was definitely uncomfortable,” Kernick told Politico. “But I realized it’s different for a man than for a woman...You know it’s inappropriate, but at the same time you may wonder, ‘How many women do you work for that act like that? You think, ‘Maybe she’s just really cool.’”
Kernick said the staff members in attendance ignored Garcia’s prompts and the game never materialized. 

Kernick and three other anonymous staff members went to Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon last week, asserting that Garcia’s office was a “toxic” environment with heavy drinking and sexually charged meetings. 

Garcia openly spoke of her sex life, they alleged. The four staffers described being pressured to drink at late-night events and “team-building” events where mimosas were served. 

In a statement, Garcia denied the latest charges, calling them “a concerted effort to discredit my person and record as a legislator.”

“Over the last weeks there have been several claims accusing me of inappropriate conduct in my role as a California State legislator,” Garcia said. “In each case, these accusations are simply not true and are inconsistent with my personal value system and how I seek to conduct myself as an elected official. 

“I look forward to a timely conclusion of the Rules Committee investigation, and I look forward to returning to the legislature to continue my advocacy for the people of my district, for immigrants, and women. 

“I ask my supporters to not be deterred, and know that our fight for human dignity and justice will continue.”

Garcia went on unpaid leave earlier this month after initial allegations that she groped a male staffer and bragged about having sex in her office with other legislators.