Democrat, #MeToo activist was drunk, 'overly familiar' with male staffer, but no evidence of groping: report

An investigator found that a California Democrat who was at the forefront of the #MeToo movement was "overly familiar" with a male former legislative staffer who accused her of misconduct, according to a letter this week from Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon.

But there's not enough evidence to substantiate allegations that Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, groped Daniel Fierro at a 2014 legislative softball game in Sacramento, the investigator said.

The findings were outlined in a letter from Rendon, which says the Assembly speaker will take "appropriate remedial action." His spokesman, Kevin Liao, said that action hasn't been determined.

Rendon's letter outlining the findings said investigators concluded Garcia was inebriated, grabbed Fierro's arm for support and put her hand on his back. It said she was "overly familiar" in a way she would not have been if she was sober.

But it said the evidence doesn't support a finding that she touched Fierro on his buttock or genitals or that the encounter was sexual.

Garcia, who represents southeastern Los Angeles County's 58th Assembly District, said in a statement she disagrees with some of the findings but did not elaborate.

Fierro first complained earlier this year that Garcia drunkenly groped him at the 2014 softball game, The Sacramento Bee reported. Garcia denied the allegation.

The investigator repeated earlier findings. The Assembly said in May an outside investigator found no evidence substantiating the allegation.

The investigator also said Garcia did not retaliate against him for filing a complaint.

But Fierro said the investigator didn't interview at least one witness he reported and alleged that Garcia retaliated against him by trying to prevent him from getting consulting contracts. Fierro, a political communications consultant from Cerritos, said he was "annoyed at the whole process," the Bee reported.

When Fierro appealed the decision, the Assembly Rules Committee's top Democrat and Republican authorized "further investigation."

Garcia took a three-month leave of absence after the groping allegation surfaced and returned to work last month after some of the initial investigation's findings became public. The findings said Garcia frequently used vulgar language in the office, asked staff to perform personal errands and disparaged her colleagues, the Bee reported.

She was required to attend sensitivity training and stripped of her committee assignments, according to the paper.

Although she was cleared of groping Fierro, the investigator found she used vulgar language in violation of the Assembly's sexual harassment policy.

"I again apologize if language I used in the past made anyone feel uncomfortable," she said in a statement.

Garcia recently won re-election to a fourth term in the Assembly, defeating Republican Mike Simfenderfer. Her district covers parts of Montebello, Artesia, Cerritos and Bell Gardens.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.