Lynwood city employee alleges sexually inappropriate behavior by mayor pro tem
LYNWOOD, Calif. (FOX 11/ CNS) - A Lynwood city employee publicly accused a City Council member Thursday of harassing her through what she called sexually charged comments and text messages, and accused the city of failing to take action to stop the behavior.
Monica Ochoa, who works in the city's finance department, said Councilman Edwin Hernandez made her ``very uncomfortable and disgusted in the workplace by making sexually inappropriate comments to me.''
``For example, he would text me inappropriate messages about him wanting to kiss my pink lips that included kissy-face emojis and other sexually inappropriate comments,'' Ochoa said during a news conference at the Woodland Hills office of her attorney, Lisa Bloom.
Ochoa also described an instance in which Hernandez came to see her following the death of her mother.
``Mr. Hernandez came into my office to give me what I thought would be his condolences,'' she said. ``At that time, I was crying, and he said, `So, when are we going for dinner?' I was shocked and didn't know how to respond. Then he said, `How about we have breakfast in bed?' Once again I didn't know how to respond and I told him to leave my office.''
Hernandez, who was elected in 2013 and previously served as city treasurer, could not be reached for comment on the accusations.
Bloom accused Lynwood city officials of failing to take action against Hernandez.
The city issued a statement saying Hernandez has given up his position as mayor pro tem and his seats on all ``internal and external committees'' and outside appointments.
``In addition, he has consented, pending the outcome of the city's independent investigation, not to interact with any city employees or officials and to participate in council meetings only by telephonic attendance, not to attend any city events and not visit City Hall,'' according to the city.
According to the city, an ``independent third party'' is investigating the allegations.
``The allegations under review are serious and troubling,'' according to the city. ``The City Council wants to publicly and collectively state that the city of Lynwood follows a zero tolerance against those who are the focus of claims or complaints of sexual harassment, hostile work environment or intimidating conduct by any employee, officer or elected official of the city.''