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Lillian Boyd, San Clemente Times
Assemblymember Bill Brough has been removed from his positions on California Assembly committees after an investigation was conducted by the state Legislature’s Workplace Conduct Unit, concluding that Brough would provide “political help” in exchange for sexual favors.
According to documents released by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon’s office, the unit found that Brough had insinuated he would provide political help if an accuser went back to his apartment with him.
In a separate complaint, the unit found that Brough had placed his hand on the small of an accuser’s back and told the accuser he did not live far away from the bar they were in. “Come on, you know you need to party,” Brough is alleged to have said.
The conclusion of the investigation comes after Brough previously had faced multiple allegations of sexual misconduct and misuse of campaign finance. On Wednesday, May 27, Brough released a statement asserting his disagreement with how the investigation was conducted.
“I was notified today that the Assembly Workplace Conduct Unit (WCU) determined that I violated the Legislature’s policy on appropriate workplace conduct,” Brough states. “I disagree with the findings and the politically motivated process. I do not believe the WCU did a complete and fair investigation; they completely dismissed many of the collaborated, factual elements.”
Brough, a Republican representing the 73rd District, contends that the investigation was flawed and that the unit dismissed many of the collaborated elements. He says he will consider pursuing legal options.
“Interestingly, somehow, people within Orange County political circles already knew the pending decision before it was even released to me,” Brough said. “It is unfortunate that this has become a very politically driven, weaponized process, which will have negative ramifications for not only those that are falsely accused, but for those with legitimate claims as well.”
While complaints against Brough go back about a decade, sexual misconduct accusations resurfaced in June 2019 when Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett had urged the Republican Party of Orange County not to endorse Brough. She referenced an incident in which Bartlett allegedly had to wriggle away from Brough’s grasp at a retirement party. Multiple accusers followed suit and came forward with additional allegations—all of which Brough has denied.
In August 2019, the California Ethics Commission announced it would investigate Brough’s alleged misuse of campaign funds totaling $200,000. He was accused of spending campaign contributions to pay his family’s cell phone bill, as well as take a personal trip to a Boston Red Sox game, among other personal expenditures. That investigation is still underway.
The Workplace Conduct Unit was established in January 2019 and tasked with receiving all reports alleging workplace conduct violations that affect protected groups in the California Senate and Assembly. The unit is responsible for assuring independent and confidential investigations of allegations and summarizing the evidence for a panel to review.
Brough had hoped to serve for a fourth term. But he came in fourth place out of five candidates in the California March Primary, disqualifying him from appearing on the November ballot, after serving three terms in the 73rd seat. Republican Laurie Davies, Mayor of Laguna Niguel, and Democrat Scott Rhinehart, who formerly worked as a real estate broker, will move on to the General Election.
The primary results reflected a major shift in Orange County politics. In the 2016 primary election, Brough took 99% of the vote, with his only opponent being a write-in candidate.
Brough is expected to complete his third term but has been removed from the committees he has served on, which include Business & Professions, Revenue & Taxation, Appropriations, Budget, Communications & Conveyance, Governmental Organization and Veterans Affairs.
“I categorically deny harassing or offering political favors to anyone. I will take the recommended training,” Brough said. “I also want to apologize to my family, friends and supporters for putting them through this unfair process. We are looking at legal options.”
Lillian Boyd is the senior editor for Picket Fence Media and city editor for Dana Point Times. She graduated with a degree in journalism from Humboldt State University. Her work experience includes interviewing incarcerated individuals in the Los Angeles County jails, an internship at the Pentagon covering U.S. Army news as well as reporting and anchoring for a local news radio station in Virginia. Follow her on Twitter @Lillianmboyd and follow Dana Point Times at @danapointtimes.