The young woman answering the phone hesitated and stammered, “Assembly office 39, can I help you?” It apparently took a minute for her to remember the new way she was instructed to answer the phone after being in the habit of automatically saying, “Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra’s office.”
The routine for staff has all changed since Bocanegra announced Monday he was stepping down immediately after news broke of six, and possibly more sexual harassment allegations were mounting against him. He had previously said that he would be staying until September to serve the duration of his term, but he would not be seeking re-election.
In a statement that he posted on his Facebook page, Bocanegra did an about face and said he wasn’t going to wait for the outcome of a legislative investigation into the allegations to resign. The top of the Facebook page now reads “Vacant Seat.”
Bocanegra was the source of a sexual harrassment investigation going back to 2009 and was ordered at that time to stay away from the woman who reported that he followed her and groped her. He didn’t acknowledge that history however on his facebook page.
“While I am not guilty of any such crimes, I am admittedly not perfect.” he stated.
“I do not want to undermine the credibility of any accusers so that each of us would have access to a fair due process,” the statement said, “I believed in our system of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and that the truth would come out clearing my name and reputation, but clearly the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ has been temporarily lost in a hurricane of political opportunism among the self-righteous in my case -to the detriment of both the accuser and the accused.”
The news has left his staff in a bit of a state of limbo with those in his Sacramento scurrying to find new jobs. One staff member in Sacramento who asked not to be identified said that they are working with the limited information that is being given to them right now but a special election will be held to fill the seat and staff in the Sacramento office were seeking other jobs.
“For the time being our Sacramento office is open. Right now we are handling constituent’s cases at the District office but there isn’t any legislation [that is being created] or votes coming from this Assembly seat [here in Sacramento].”
“At the moment the reality is that people will need to find other employment,” confirmed Luis Sanchez, the former spokesman and press contact for Bocanegra “The office will have someone to answer phones both at the Capitol office and district office to help constituents to their best of their ability but as far as representation there is nobody because the seat has been vacated.” Sanchez said residents can still call with questions about services and there will be someone answering the phone but he said, “this is a very fluid time”.
The legislature is currently on winter break and will reconvene on January 3.
The Governor has two weeks from the Assemblyman’s resignation notification date to declare a special election to fill the vacancy and then another 140 days to set a date. His resignation leaves five committee positions vacant including housing and development.
District 39 covers the Northeast San Fernando Valley which includes Arleta, Lake View Terrace, San Fernando, Mission Hills, Pacoima and North Hollywood.