California state lawmaker accused of sexual harassment

At a Monday news conference in the offices of her firm, K Street Consulting, Pamela Lopez identified her assailant as Assemblyman Matt Dababneh.

Lopez says she made a decision to go public with the allegations following a call by the Assembly Rules Committee for alleged victims to come forward and name names.

The accusation comes in the midst of a national reckoning on sexual misconduct in the workplace.

He is the third sitting lawmaker to be investigated by the Legislature over sexual misconduct allegations since almost 150 women at the Capitol came forward in October to allege pervasive harassment in state government. But Monday was the first time she named the legislator she said was responsible.

She accused him of following her into a single-stall bathroom during a January 2016 Las Vegas hotel party for mutual friends, slamming the door and masturbating in front of her while asking him to touch her. As she went to use a restroom, a "large body" rushed up behind her and pushed her into the room, she said.

Dababneh's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"I had never seen or been told of, any inappropriate behavior by Assemblyman Dababneh, or any disparagement of women", Sherman said.

"I remember being 26, and I remember being 23 and several other instances of sexual harassment. and those moments were so debilitating because I was aware of my own powerlessness to do anything", she said. "All I could think to tell her was to get her out of there as quickly as possible". "And, so I said several times, 'No, I will not touch you'".

Dababneh's laywer told The Los Angeles Times "these events did not happen", though the assemblyman himself did not comment on Monday. "I am saddened by this lobbyist's effort to create this falsehood and make these inflammatory statements, apparently for her own self-promotion and without regard to the reputation of others. But the shame does not belong to the women who were sexually harassed". She said he did not do anything unlawful but said she considered his behavior outside the "rules of common decency or professionalism".

Dababneh now speaks to California's 45th Assembly District, covering a great part of the San Fernando Valley in Southern California. It felt familiar to me", Barker said."Pamela and I aren't the only women that Matt has harassed. Once, she alleged, he showed her a drawer full of condoms. At the time, she refused to say who it was, but said she was persuaded to come forward to protect other women after an Assembly hearing last week on sexual harassment policies.

"Who knows what my career would look like today had I been able to stay in a congressional office with a boss who was respectful and encouraging", Barker said.

No one witnessed the alleged assault in Las Vegas but Lopez's lobbying partner, Afrack Vargas, said Lopez told him about what happened when she returned from the weekend in Las Vegas.

Lopez is the only woman to make a formal claim against Dababneh as a lawmaker, but others allege inappropriate conduct while he worked for Sherman from 2005-2013, including as the district chief of staff.

Hyams said Lopez had no plans to file a criminal report but had not ruled out further legal action.

Vanessa Coleman

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