Assemblyman Bill Brough, R-San Juan Capistrano, is angrily denying sexual harassment allegations from Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Lisa Bartlett and other women.
“A recent slanderous and politically motivated allegation was made against me — this is false,” Brough said in a statement Monday. “The same accusation was made in 2011. They continued to fabricate the claim and they are doing it again.”
The issue came to a head a week ago at a monthly meeting of the Orange County Republican Central Committee in Costa Mesa. Brough was seeing the committee’s endorsement, but he faced opposition before the meeting from committee member Deborah Pauly in an email — and then Bartlett personally when she stood up to detail an encounter with Brough while they served on the Dana Point City Council which she said left her struggling with nightmares, one Republican insider at the meeting told City News Service.
Initially, Bartlett rose to speak out against Brough for legislation he has proposed on Orange County’s tollway agency. Bartlett, who serves on the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency, criticized Brough’s support of the legislation, which she argued would take away local control.
But she stunned the Republicans at the meeting when she referred to an “abusive and inappropriate” encounter with Brough, said the insider.
In his statement, Bartlett said “for years now” Brough “has avoided all responsibility relating to numerous accounts of inappropriate behavior.”
Bartlett added that prior “allegations by women have been swept under the rug and it is time that they are brought back to light. I stand in solidarity with the other women who share similar stories to mine. No woman should ever feel the violation and fear I felt and continue to feel today. I am coming forward with my story because if I do not, this inappropriate behavior will continue to happen, and more women stand to be victimized.”
Bartlett reportedly said the incident happened in March 2011 following a Dana Point City Council meeting in a parking lot of a restaurant, the Sacramento Bee reported.
Bartlett said Brough clutched her from behind and put his arms around her shoulder while inviting her out for a drink, the Bee reported.
Bartlett said she got free and dashed into the restaurant, where she asked someone to call the city manager at the time.
Brough said Bartlett’s allegation at the time “was retaliation for several council votes, and I feel the political timing now is retaliation for my questioning of the toll road agency, TCA. I have also been threatened by others before and after my toll road agency actions. 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 also denied claims by Laguna Beach realtor Maria Elena Banks, who reportedly claimed that Brough put his hand on her leg and asked if he could come over to her house about five years ago in Dana Point, the Orange County Register reported.
“The incident didn’t happen,” Brough said. “It is ironic that Ms. Banks lobbied me earlier this year, wanting to be my realtor key contact.”
A message left with Banks was not immediately returned.
After hearing Bartlett’s opposition, the central committee members voted, with just one lone no vote, to refer Brough’s endorsement request to a committee that would investigate the claims. That prompted Brough to withdraw his request for an endorsement.
“The Republican Party of Orange County has no tolerance for sexual misconduct,” Orange County Republican Chairman Fred Whitaker said in a statement. “We are not aware of any pending investigations. All claims of sexual misconduct should be reported to and investigated by law enforcement or state legislative ethics committees to allow for a fair and thorough investigation, so that victims can be heard and an accused can present a defense. If an investigation is initiated, any request for endorsement would be dependent on the results of the investigation. There is no request for endorsement pending at this time.”