‘I still have nightmares’: Four women accuse O.C. assemblyman of misconduct

‘I still have nightmares’: Four women accuse O.C. assemblyman of misconduct

Four women, including an Orange County supervisor, have accused Assemblyman William Brough (R-Dana Point) of unwanted touching and other misconduct.

The allegations came to light last week, when Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett spoke out against an endorsement for Brough at an Orange County Republican Party meeting and claimed she’d had a negative encounter with the lawmaker. In an interview with The Times, Bartlett said Brough propositioned and “attacked” her at an official event in 2011 when they were both on the Dana Point City Council.

Three other women, who spoke to The Times on condition of anonymity citing fear of reprisal, have also alleged that Brough made unwanted advances toward them. One woman, a governmental affairs manager who filed a 2017 complaint against Brough with the Assembly Rules Committee, allegedthat Brough propositioned her in a Sacramento hotel lobby. An Assembly investigation later found Brough did not violate Assembly policy. And a former Assembly staffer and former lobbyist claim that the legislator sexually harassed them in separate incidents in Capitol-area bars and implied he could help their careers if they obliged his overtures.

Brough, who is married, denies the claims, calling them a “coordinated effort of unsubstantiated allegations” that are politically motivated by rancor over his attempts to rein in a local toll road agency. He introduced a bill earlier this year that would have curtailed the powers of Orange County’s Transportation Corridor Agencies to build new roads and bridges but later pulled it, saying he would seek an audit instead.

“I have been on the end of many political attacks but I will not stand for personal attacks on me and my family. I have done nothing wrong,” Brough said.

A public accusation
Bartlett said she decided to speak up against Brough’s endorsement because she was a “recipient of inappropriate behavior” by the legislator.

“I stated [in the meeting] that I still have nightmares about that incident, and that, sadly, I am not the only one,” she said.

Bartlett told The Times that the alleged incident occurred at the end of a March 2011 retirement party for a Marine colonel at a Dana Point restaurant. She said she was in a dark, empty section of the restaurant, looking in her purse for her car keys when she felt someone grab her from behind.

When she looked up, she saw the person was Brough and asked him what he was doing, she said.

“He said something to the effect of, ‘Let’s get out of here and go for a drink and do something,’” Bartlett said, adding that she could smell alcohol on his breath. She says she interpreted Brough’s actions as a sexual proposition.

Bartlett said she could feel Brough trying to steer her toward an exit door on the side of the restaurant. She said she repeatedly asked Brough to let go of her and that his grip was so strong that she initially couldn’t wriggle free.

“I was thinking, ‘I don’t really have anything to protect myself, I’m in high heels, I can’t run,’” Bartlett said. “I was petrified.”

Bartlett said she was eventually able to pull herself downward and twist away from Brough before running to the front of the restaurant to try to find then-Dana Point City Manager Doug Chotkevys.

When Bartlett learned Chotkevys had left the party, she called him and he returned to the restaurant, she said.

Chotkevys confirmed to The Times that Bartlett called him that evening. He said that she was “visibly upset” and that he returned to the restaurant to ensure she got home safe, but declined to comment further, citing personnel issues.

Bartlett filed a complaint with the city the day after the alleged incident. A 2011 memo from Dana Point city attorney A. Patrick Muñoz provided by both Brough and Bartlett to The Times stated that Muñoz didn’t have “sufficient facts or evidence to come to any conclusions regarding the matter.”

The memo, which cited conflicting accounts from Brough and Bartlett, stated that Bartlett told the city attorney that she believed Brough was “very intoxicated.” Concerned about his condition, Bartlett said she called Chotkevys before the alleged incident and asked him to return “to take care of [Brough],” according to the memo. When Chotkevys arrived, the city attorney wrote, Bartlett was helping him look for Brough when Brough allegedly accosted her. According to the city attorney’s report, Bartlett initially said the incident occurred in the parking lot, a claim Bartlett denied at the time.

Bartlett said she disputes the summary of the incident in the city attorney’s report and that she believes Muñoz misrecorded her version of events. Muñoz did not respond to a request for comment.

Brough’s endorsement was tabled at the GOP meeting where Bartlett made her public accusation last week. An email obtained by The Times that was sent to the county party central committee last week indicates that Brough later withdrew his request for an endorsement.

The Republican Party of Orange County declined to comment on the allegations in a statement, but said it has “no tolerance for sexual misconduct.”

Assembly complaint
Assembly Rules Committee records obtained by The Times also show that Brough was investigated in late 2017 and early 2018 by the committee for a separate incident that it later determined did not violate Assembly policy.

In that case, a governmental advocate with business in the Capitol alleged that in February 2015, Brough followed her into the lobby of her Sacramento hotel and propositioned her for sex. In a March 2018 appeal letter to the Assembly Rules Committee, the woman described being “sexually battered” by Brough, claiming that he pressed his erection against her and said, “You know I’m really into you, right?” She wrote that when she told Brough she was married, he replied, “So am I.”

The woman also alleged in the letter that Brough’s behavior followed “almost two years of sexual innuendo and advances,” which she said began when he was an Assembly staffer. She said that in other alleged incidents, she declined Brough’s requests for a walk on the beach during a business lunch and his offer of a hotel room should she decide to volunteer on another candidate’s political campaign.

“[Brough] repeatedly propositioned me for an extramarital affair,” the woman wrote in the letter. “I repeatedly declined or ignored his propositions, and his propositions were severely unwelcome and caused me an immense amount of stress.”

The woman also said in the letter that she believed Assembly investigators brushed off Brough’s alleged ongoing behavior and had said to her in a phone call that the incidents she reported were interactions between “consenting adults,” a characterization she disputed.

A friend of the woman who filed the complaint, who works in Orange County Republican politics and requested anonymity to speak freely about the matter, confirmed to The Times that she told him about the 2015 incident shortly after it happened and said he was later contacted by an Assembly Rules investigator in late 2017 as part of the inquiry. Another friend and coworker of the woman also confirmed that she relayed the same details to him before filing her complaint in 2017.

Former state Sen. Dick Ackerman, an Orange County Republican whom the woman considers a mentor, told The Times that she first spoke to him about alleged ongoing harassment by Brough as early as 2012 and said that he has spoken to her more than a half dozen times since about her claims.

Ackerman said he was contacted multiple times by an Assembly Rules Committee investigator as part of the investigation. He said he also told the investigator about Bartlett’s 2011 allegation, which Bartlett had recounted to him. Ackerman said he was told that the earlier allegation was discounted by the committee because it occurred before Brough’s election to the Assembly.

“Quite frankly, I was shocked,” Ackerman said. “When you have sexual harassment-type things, you have to be looking at a course of conduct and how he conducted himself before he was there should be relevant to the investigation.”

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) declined to comment on the 2018 investigation into Brough’s conduct. In a statement responding to Bartlett’s allegations, Rendon said that “The Assembly takes all allegations seriously. Allegations will be reviewed by the Workplace Conduct Unit, the independent body created by the Legislature to investigate claims of workplace misconduct.”

Other allegations
In another alleged incident, a former Assembly staffer told The Times that Brough propositioned her at a March 2015 political event at a Sacramento bar that she attended with her former boss, who was then a Republican Assembly member.

The woman said she, her former boss and Brough were talking before she was briefly left alone with Brough at the bar and he allegedly told her, “I’ve been watching you for a long time and I’ve always wondered why you weren’t married yet.” He then commented on a dress he’d seen her wear at a previous event, noting the color, she said.

“I remember that really gave me a creepy feeling,” the woman said. “I hadn’t really had any interaction with him before.”

Brough allegedly told the woman that he was on a key caucus committee and that he could “help” her boss. He added that his apartment was “right around the corner,” she said.

“That’s when I told him, ‘I’m disgusted that you would even think that you can talk to me like this,’” she said. The woman said she recounted the incident to her boss and another coworker shortly after it happened.

Brough denied the allegation and said he remembered speaking to the woman and her boss at the bar and that he asked her to send him a business proposal for her fundraising services but did not have any other conversations with her that night.

The woman’s former boss, who asked for anonymity to freely discuss the alleged incident, confirmed that he attended the event with the woman and said he remembered leaving her and Brough at the bar briefly. He confirmed that she relayed her account to him immediately after she said the alleged incident occurred, and said they left the venue shortly afterward.

“She was having a rough time with it,” the former legislator said, noting that he urged the woman to file a complaint with the Assembly Rules Committee. “I do remember her being shaken and upset.”

A friend and Democratic labor leader also said the woman recounted the incident to him a few days later.

The woman said she didn’t file a complaint at the time because she didn’t have faith in the Assembly’s internal investigation process.

A fourth woman, who is a Democratic activist and former registered lobbyist involved in Orange County politics, told The Times she was in Sacramento for a lobbying day in March 2018 when she attended a dinner with several Orange County elected officials, including Brough.

Following the dinner, the woman said, she accompanied some of the attendees to a bar near the Capitol. While there, the woman said, Brough followed her to the bar when she went to order a drink and put his arm around her shoulder. After she turned and backed away, the woman said, Brough put his hand on a wall behind her, blocking her from moving, and began touching her face and neck with his other hand.

The woman said Brough then propositioned her, saying, “We should get out of here. Do you want to have fun with me? You look like the kind of girl who would like to have fun.”

The former lobbyist said she tried to laugh Brough’s comments off, and said they should get back to the group.

A friend, who was not present at the event, confirmed that the woman shared details of the alleged incident with him earlier this year.

Brough did not respond to requests for comment regarding the fourth accuser, reiterating in a text message, “I have done nothing wrong.”

In addition to serving on the Dana Point City Council, Brough previously served as a White House liaison at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs under the administration of George W. Bush and ran a public affairs consulting firm before being elected to the Assembly in 2014. He is deputy Republican floor leader in that chamber.

In a joint statement, California Assembly Minority Leader Marie Waldron (R-Escondido) and Senate Minority Leader Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) said that “California State Legislative Republicans will not tolerate sexual misconduct of any kind.”

“These accusations are serious and troubling,” Waldron and Grove said in their statement. “Any allegation of this nature deserves a thorough, fair and transparent investigation by the Legislature’s Workplace Conduct Unit. The Legislature has worked hard to improve its process for reviewing these types of claims and we are committed to cooperating with any investigation into this matter.”

California lawmaker was accused of harassment. Now his campaign spending is under investigation

California lawmaker was accused of harassment. Now his campaign spending is under investigation

California ethics officials have opened an investigation into Assemblyman Bill Brough, R-Dana Point, over concerns about his use of campaign funds. He is accused of using the money to pay off his family’s cell phone bill, go out to fancy restaurants and take a personal trip to a Boston Red Sox game.

The complaint, prompted by the work of a conservative blogger, is being reviewed by the Fair Political Practices Commission, according to an Aug. 20 letter the commission sent. Aaron Park, who frequently posts to his “Right on Daily blog,” also raised concerns over a $1,200 restaurant bill, a $1,321 custom-made liquor cabinet and $1,311 for cigars and a high-end humidor.

Brough was elected to the Assembly in 2014. The total payments in question since he took office add up to nearly $200,000.

The Orange County Republican came under fire earlier this summer after multiple women accused him of making unwanted sexual advances. One accuser claimed Brough was drunk at the time.

“I’ve been advised by the FPPC that they have not made any determination about the validity of the allegations made or about the culpability, if any, of any person,” Brough said in a statement.

Brough received a letter from the commission on July 12 informing him of the concerns raised. Jay Wierenga, a spokesman for the FPPC, did not offer a timeline for when the investigation would be completed.

Assembly Republican leader Marie Waldron called the complaints “serious” but did not push for Brough to resign. She and Senate Republican leader Shannon Grove previously called the sexual harassment allegations against him “serious and troubling.”

“I was just made aware of the investigation into Assemblyman Brough’s campaign finances,” Waldron said in a statement. “While these claims are serious, it would be premature to make a judgment on the validity of the allegations before the FPPC investigators have completed their work.”

Assemblyman Bil Brough, R-Dana Point, has been accused of sexual harassment.

California lawmaker under investigation for alleged sexual harassment

California lawmaker under investigation for alleged sexual harassment

A California lawmaker is under investigation for alleged sexual harassment, according to the leader of the state’s Republican Party and people familiar with the investigation.

Multiple women have accused Assemblyman Bill Brough, R-Dana Point, of making unwanted sexual advances, prompting party leaders to distance themselves from him and withhold a possible 2020 re-election endorsement until a pair of investigations are complete.

While it’s already known that the Fair Political Practices Commission is looking into potential campaign finance violations, California GOP Chairwoman Jessica Patterson said at a Sacramento Press Club event Wednesday afternoon that Brough is also being investigated by the state for accusations of sexual harassment.

“We now have a process within the Legislature with the workplace conduct unit that protects both those that are accusers and those that are being accused,” Patterson said. “There is an investigation in progress, and same with the FPPC side of things, there’s an investigation that is in progress.”

Lincoln Club pulls back its endorsement of Assemblyman Bill Brough

Lincoln Club pulls back its endorsement of Assemblyman Bill Brough

One prominent Orange County Republican group has rescinded its endorsement of Assemblyman Bill Brough in the race for the 73rd Assembly District, while another has endorsed challenger Ed Sachs.

Brough is facing allegations of sexual assault and an investigation by state ethics officials over his use of campaign funds. Brough has repeatedly denied wrongdoing in both cases. But with those issues in the background, the Orange County Congress of Republicans, a grassroots organization chartered by the state GOP, formally is backing Sachs.

And on Thursday, Sept. 12, board members for the Lincoln Club of Orange County — a decades-old, influential conservative political group — unanimously voted to rescind their prior endorsement of Brough and evaluate other AD-73 candidates.

“Serious allegations have been made against Assembly Member Brough, and the Lincoln Club takes them seriously,” organization president John Warner said. “Republicans need strong, unencumbered leadership, undistracted by disturbing accusations about personal behavior.”

Brough is the only GOP incumbent not currently endorsed by the Republican Party of Orange County, though the local GOP also hasn’t yet endorsed any of Brough’s challengers.

But at the group’s monthly Central Committee Meeting on Monday, Sept. 16, in Costa Mesa, the featured speaker will be Patricia Wenskunas, founder of Irvine-based non-profit Crime Survivors. Wenskunas was quoted in a recent Sachs’ press release that called for Brough’s resignation after the assemblyman sent an email to OCGOP members that named two women who had filed complaints accusing him of sexual harassment but had chosen to stay anonymous.

“Such tactics have a chilling effect on victims of sexual assault and are intended to intimidate them into staying quiet,” Wenskunas wrote.

Orange County assemblyman accused of sexual harassment asked not to seek re-election by OC GOP

Orange County assemblyman accused of sexual harassment asked not to seek re-election by OC GOP

 

COSTA MESA, Calif. (KABC) — An Orange County lawmaker accused of sexual harassment by multiple women was called on by the Republican Party of Orange County on Monday to not seek re-election and retire at the end of his current term.

Assemblyman Bill Brough is accused of unwanted touching and other misconduct involving at least three women, including Lisa Bartlett, the Chair of the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

Bartlett alleges she was the recipient of inappropriate behavior at a retirement party at a restaurant in Dana Point, during a time she and Brough were on the Dana Point City Council in 2011.

Bartlett spoke up against his endorsement after Brough sent an e-mail to committee members last month.

In the e-mail, he names the women making accusations against him.

“We have victims that came forward anonymously,” said Patricia Wenskunas, founder of Crime Survivors. “They should have been respected, but yet, Assemblyman Brough decided to call them all out in an e-mail, calling them liars, bullying them.”

In a statement, Bartlett said:

“In regard to Bill’s unhinged email and denials about my claim, he is lying… I did file a complaint against Bill with the City, there was an investigation.”It’s been investigated and they found no wrongdoing,” Brough told Eyewitness News.

A 2011 memo from the Dana Point city attorney stated there was not sufficient facts or evidence to come to any conclusions regarding the matter.

Brough says the allegations are politically motivated by bitterness over his efforts to try to rein in a toll road agency.

Brough abruptly left the committee meeting Monday after the Republican Party of Orange County called on Brough not to file for re-election and retire at the end of his term.

“Based on the totality of the circumstances and controversies surrounding the Assemblyman, the Republican Party of Orange County calls on Bill Brough to not file for re-election to the state assembly, and retire at the end of his current term,” said a resolution from the Republican Party of Orange County.

“They just made a political judgement. They think I should not run for re-election, but I’ve done nothing wrong, so we’ll see,” Brough said.

A plea aimed at Brough by Wenskunas called on him to resign, a comment made during the OC GOP Central Committee meeting before a vote on the resolution.

Brough is looking at re-election in 2020 for the 73rd State Assembly District race.

Brough told Eyewitness News he would not resign.

The state campaign watchdog is also investigating Brough for alleged misuse of campaign funds. Brough has denied any wrongdoing.

Assemblyman Bill Brough, facing accusations, also will face GOP challenger in 73rd

Assemblyman Bill Brough, facing accusations, also will face GOP challenger in 73rd

With accusations of sexual misconduct swirling around GOP incumbent Bill Brough, another familiar Republican just entered the 2020 race for the 73rd State Assembly District race.

And Mission Viejo Councilman Ed Sachs’ first touted endorsement? Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, who last month accused Brough of making aggressive, unwanted sexual advances toward her in 2011 — accusations Brough denies.

Sachs ran against Brough in 2018, garnering just 13.5 percent of the vote during the June primary. But Sachs told the Register on Monday that he put his name on the ballot last year only as a “stop gap,” so there would be a GOP contender for voters to choose in case news broke that might dent Brough’s re-election chances.  When no such news became public, Sachs said he dropped his campaign. State records confirm he reported zero fundraising for the 2018 cycle.

But when Bartlett and three other women said last month that Brough had approached them in ways that made them uncomfortable in recent years — and that they had sought investigations of those incidents — Sachs decided he should be his party’s alternative candidate.