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The Latest: Investigation of senator finds misconduct likely

February 21, 2018

File-In this Aug. 31, 2016, file photo the dome of the state Capitol glows in the early evening in Sacramento, Calif. When lawmakers return from the President's Day weekend, Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2018, they will learn whether an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against state Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, clears him or sets him up for a possible expulsion. While lawmakers seek to downplay the practical impact, all the attention on sexual misconduct is clearly taking time away from other issues.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The Latest on alleged sexual misconduct at the California Legislature (all times local):

5:15 p.m.

An investigation has determined a California senator likely engaged in six instances of flirtatious or sexually suggestive behavior with female staff members and lobbyists in the past decade.

Democratic Sen. Tony Mendoza could face censure, suspension, expulsion or reinstatement from his colleagues as early as Thursday. He’s been suspended during the investigation.

The Senate released a 3-page summary of the findings of the investigation by outside lawyers Tuesday. It clears Mendoza of an allegation he fired staff members who reported one of the instances.

The report finds it “more likely than not” that Mendoza engaged in behavior such as offering a 19-year-old alcohol in a hotel suite at a Democratic Party event as well as inviting a young woman in a Senate fellowship program to take a vacation with him and rent a room in his home.

A spokesman for Mendoza did not immediately comment.

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12:01 p.m.

A California assemblywoman says accusations of sexual misconduct against her are part of a political effort to discredit her.

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia is on an unpaid leave of absence amid an investigation into whether she groped Denial Fierro, a former staffer to a colleague, in 2014. Another former staffer has filed a complaint alleging Garcia asked him to play a drinking game and he was fired for complaining about it.

Garcia, a Bell Gardens Democrat, denies the claims.

She alleges a private investigator has been calling her former staff members and tenants in properties she owns seeking information to discredit her. Her statement does not specify who she thinks is behind the effort.

Fierro says he stands by his story and is unaware of efforts by a private investigator.

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6 a.m.

Sexual misconduct in the California Legislature has dominated the conversation since lawmakers returned in January, with the burgeoning scandal taking one surprising twist after another.

It will be the focus again when lawmakers return Tuesday and learn whether an investigation cleared Sen. Tony Mendoza of misconduct allegations or set him up for possible expulsion. Mendoza has sued the Senate, claiming he was unfairly suspended and that racism might have been a factor.

Meanwhile, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia is on leave after being accused of groping a male legislative staffer.

Democratic Assemblyman Mark Stone said public perception of the Legislature has been harmed by the scandal but needed changes also are coming because of it.

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