California State Assemblyman Matt Dababneh. Photo courtesy of the State of California.
California State Assemblyman Matt Dababneh. Photo courtesy of the State of California.

Just days after he was accused of forcing a woman lobbyist to watch him masturbate in a bathroom at a Las Vegas party, Assemblyman Matt Dababneh said he will resign at the end of the month.

“It was a terrifying experience,” according to the woman’s official complaint to the Legislature. “During the time he blocked me in that room, my instincts were focused on escaping without any physical contact and in a way that would not cause a scene. Before the ordeal ended, he told me not to tell anyone.”

Dababneh, D-Woodland Hills, told the Los Angeles Times he continues to deny the allegations against him, and his decision to resign “isn’t out of guilt or out of fear.”

“It’s out of an idea that I think it’s time for me to move on to new opportunities,” he told The Times. He said given the allegations and accompanying investigation, “it’d be very hard for me to represent my district and be able to pass the type of legislation that would be meaningful.”

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, called Dababneh’s Friday decision to resign “yet another sign that the culture is changing.”

“The Assembly will continue to work to hasten that change, to make the Legislature an institution where people are safe, survivors are helped and perpetrators are held accountable.”

On Monday, Sacramento lobbyist Pamela Lopez filed a complaint with the Assembly Rules Committee detailing her accusation, which she said occurred during a January 2016 party in Las Vegas attended by a variety of “political professionals.”

After filing her complaint, Lopez held a news conference alongside another woman, Jessica Yas Barker, who worked under Dababneh when he was a district chief of staff for Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks, in 2009-10.

Barker said Dababneh was known for his sexually charged comments in the office and inappropriate conduct.

“It was pretty much an open secret in the San Fernando Valley that this is how Matt behaved,” Barker said. “Unfortunately, it was largely brushed off.

“Just this last weekend, I met a woman who told me that her daughter is interning in Matt’s office,” she said. “All I could think to tell her was to get her out of there as quickly as possible.”

The most damaging accusations, however, came from Lopez, who had previously discussed the alleged encounter but did not name the legislator involved. She said she went public following a call by the Assembly Rules Committee for alleged victims to come forward and name names.

“There are other women who have been sexually harassed by Matt Dababneh,” Lopez told reporters. “And I can’t have it on my conscious that this may happen again.”

In her complaint letter, Lopez says she and Dababneh both attended an engagement party for mutual friends at a Las Vegas hotel. She said the crowd included political professionals, many of whom she knew.

“When I went to the bathroom after being at the party for a few hours, I felt the weight of a body push me into the restroom,” she wrote. “I heard the door slam behind us. When I turned around, I saw Matt Dababneh. He stood blocking the door and began to masturbate and move toward me, urging me to touch him.”

On Monday, Dababneh, 36, strongly denied the allegations.

“I affirmatively deny that this event ever happened — at any time,” he said. “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. I look forward to clearing my name.”

A friend of Dababneh, Ken Maxey, told The Times he was with the assemblyman at the party for a “majority” of the night, and does not recall him ever using the bathroom. He noted that the layout of the room where the party was held would make it difficult for any such incident to go unnoticed.

Lopez’s business partner, however, told the paper that Lopez told him about the encounter within days of her return to Sacramento after the Las Vegas party. A friend of Lopez’s also told The Times that Lopez described the encounter to her several weeks after the party.

Dababneh is the second Assembly member to resign in recent weeks over harassment allegations. Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, D-Pacoima, resigned in response to harassment allegations by a series of women.

Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, was stripped of his legislative leadership positions pending an investigation into harassment allegations against him.

Dababneh has been in the Assembly since 2013.

— City News Service

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