Ex-Assemblyman Ridley-Thomas sexually harassed staffers, investigation finds

A California lawmaker who resigned abruptly at the end of 2017 citing health problems likely harassed at least two legislative staff members while he was in office, according to an investigation commissioned by the state Assembly.

Investigators determined that former Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, a Democrat who represented part of Los Angeles for four years, “more likely than not” made a sexual advance on a staff member after asking her to dinner and telling her he was obsessed with her. It’s also “more likely than not” that he repeatedly winked at another staff member and held her hand in a way that made her uncomfortable, according to records the Legislature released today.

The redacted records do not identify the victims but describe Ridley-Thomas trying to kiss the staffer he asked out to dinner:

“He walked me to my car and… he basically kissed me. He tried to put his tongue in my mouth. I could feel his erect penis on my leg. I told him I wasn’t interested,” the report says.

After that, the records say, the assemblyman continued to call and text the staffer.

Ridley-Thomas denied the allegations, releasing a statement through his attorney that criticized the Assembly’s investigation process and accused officials of breaching confidentiality.

“The amount of redaction in the documents released by the Assembly shows that most of the allegations were unsubstantiated. For those that remain, my client refuted each one point by point during the investigation and provided evidence supporting his position,” said the statement from attorney Nancy Sheehan.

“In light of how this investigation was skewed, it is difficult to have confidence in its findings. Allegations of sexual harassment are serious. The process used to investigate them and make findings needs to be careful, fair to all involved, and conducted with absolute integrity. Unfortunately, this wasn’t true in my client’s case and is therefore unacceptable.”

The Legislature is releasing the report in accordance with a change of policy ushered in by last year’s #MeToo movement striving to end sexual harassment. Even though state law says the Legislature can keep its investigations secret, the new policy calls for making investigations public in cases that substantiate complaints against elected lawmakers or high-level staff.

CALmatters is tracking records the Legislature has released since last year. Scroll to the right for a link to the original documents.

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