LYNWOOD — Mayor Pro Tem Edwin Hernandez has agreed to relinquish that position as the city investigates allegations of sexual harassment made against him by a female city employee.
The city said in a statement Feb. 16 that the allegations under review are “serious and troubling” and that it follows a zero-tolerance policy against those who are the focus of complaints of sexual harassment, a hostile work environment or intimidating conduct, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“The City Council has directed that a full and complete investigation be conducted by an independent third party to delve into the allegations presented,” the statement said.
L.A. Weekly first reported on Feb. 13 that a Lynwood employee had filed a complaint against Hernandez, alleging he made unwanted sexual advances toward her.
His actions “intimidated and publicly mortified her,” the woman’s attorney, Lisa Bloom of the Bloom Law Firm, wrote in a letter to the city. The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, also feared for her job.
The letter obtained by the L.A. Weekly noted some examples of Hernandez’s alleged behavior, including one instance in which he sent the employee a text, commenting, “You look so good in that blue shirt. Hmmm.” In another instance, he allegedly asked the woman to step out of her office and said, “I want to kiss your pink lips.”
There was no immediate comment from Hernandez, who has served on the City Council since 2013.
In an interview with The Times Feb. 18, Bloom said she and her client, who has worked for the city for more than 10 years and has received good performance reviews, are frustrated by the city’s slow response. She said her client first notified the city of the harassment complaint in December and then again with a written grievance in January.
“Nothing happened, so she came to me,” Bloom said. “They already knew everything by the time she contacted me. It’s really an intolerable situation.”
She said a lawsuit was “very likely.”
“This is not just about sexual harassment,” Bloom said. “This is about a failure to investigate and to comply with the law.”
Hernandez will remain on the council but has agreed to relinquish his position as mayor pro tem. He will also be removed from all committees or outside agency assignments and will not interact with any city employees or officials pending the outcome of the investigation, The Times reported.
In addition, he will not attend any city events or visit City Hall during this period and only participate in City Council meetings by telephonic conference call.