With only hours left before the end of the 120-day session, Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford formally admonished fellow Democrat Mark Manendo on the Senate floor amid an ongoing investigation into multiple complaints of sexual harassment.
Ford read a short written statement late Monday saying that he’s become aware of complaints that span “many years, including complaints of multiple incidents this legislative session. He added that while the investigation is ongoing, Manendo’s conduct, whether intentional or not, made people feel uncomfortable and was not befitting a senator.
“It has become clear to me that the Senator from District 21 has developed a reputation of harassing and intimidating young women at the Legislature and engaging in conduct that makes them uncomfortable and I believe his conduct has had a negative impact on the working environment within the Legislature,” Ford said.
Ford said that he intended to streamline the complaint process and work on the definition of unacceptable behavior going forward.
“No person – whether a legislator, lobbyist, member of the staff, intern or anyone else – should be placed in a position where someone inappropriately exerts control in a way that intimidates, harasses or makes them uncomfortable,” Ford said.
Senators didn’t discuss any policy matters during the brief floor session. Manendo left the chambers quickly after the speech.
He had asked the Legislative Counsel Bureau to hire an outside investigator to probe multiple complaints of sexual harassment against Manendo. Ford said he wanted to reassure the women who made the complaints that they did the right thing.
It’s not the first time that Manendo has been accused of harassing women. In 2003, then-Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins asked legislative staff to look into allegations against the then-assemblyman, a probe that was ultimately inconclusive.
After that session, Perkins decided not to re-appoint Manendo to chair the Assembly Government Affairs Committee. Perkins said the move was linked to the allegations.
An attorney for Manendo said earlier in May that the senator was cooperating with investigators and was confident that he would ultimately be exonerated. Republicans have called for full Senate hearings into the allegations.
Manendo, who represents a Las Vegas-area district, was first elected in 1994 and has served in both the Assembly and the Senate.