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4 Women Accuse O.C. Assemblyman of Unwanted Touching, Other Misconduct

A Republican assemblyman is the latest California lawmaker to be accused of inappropriate behavior toward women, prompting GOP leaders to call for an investigation into the allegations.

Republican Bill Brough of Dana Point has denied claims he made unwanted advances toward four women, calling the allegations a politically motivated, coordinated effort, the Los Angeles TimesĀ reported. Two of the allegations have been previously investigated and unsubstantiated, one by Dana Point’s city attorney and the other by an Assembly panel. The other two were not previously reported.

The California Legislature opened a Workplace Conduct Unit earlier this year to handle all investigations of harassment and discrimination after the #MeToo movement roiled the Legislature and prompted a handful of lawmakers to resign. Diane Boyer-Vine, the legislative counsel, did not say whether the unit is investigating Brough because its activities are confidential.

Brough previously served on the Dana Point city council and was elected to the Legislature in 2014.

Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett publicly accused Brough last week during a county Republican Party meeting of unwanted advances in 2011, the Orange County Register reported.

Bartlett, a fellow Republican, said the two were at an event at a local restaurant when Brough came up behind her and grabbed her shoulders, tried to steer her out the door and suggested they go get a drink. She said he refused to let her go, and she eventually wiggled free.

Bartlett believed he was making a sexual proposition, she told the Times. Bartlett and Brough served on the city council at the time, and she filed a formal complaint. The city attorney found there was not sufficient evidence to reach a conclusion.

Brough also faced an investigation by the state Assembly that concluded last year. A woman who used to work in the Assembly and later became an outside advocate said Brough propositioned her for sex in a Sacramento hotel lobby, pressing his body against her. Brough had repeatedly propositioned her when she worked in the Assembly, she wrote in her initial complaint, obtained by the Times.

The Assembly Rules Committee determined Brough had not violated the chamber’s policy.

Two other women who worked at or around the Capitol anonymously told the Times that Brough made unwanted advances at Sacramento bars. One woman said Brough blocked her against a wall and touched her face and hands while asking him to leave the bar with her. Neither woman reported the incidents to the Assembly.

For all three anonymous accusations, the Times spoke to people who said the women had told them about the encounter after it happened.

Assemblywoman Marie Waldron and Sen. Shannon Grove, the chambers’ Republican leaders, called the accusations “serious and troubling.”

“Any allegation of this nature deserves a thorough, fair and transparent investigation by the Legislature’s Workplace Conduct Unit,” they said in a statement to the Times.

The unit initiates investigations when it receives a formal complaint from an accuser or someone else who reports the incident. Boyer-Vine would not say if the unit has investigated any sitting lawmakers since it launched in February. The Legislature only releases details of an investigation when allegations against a lawmaker or high-level staff member are substantiated.

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