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.
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.