It’s all too easy these days to become numb to allegations of sexual harassment, assault, and rape against public officials. Not because these allegations are generally without merit–in reality, false allegations of these sorts are exceedingly rare–but because there are so damn many. For example, 22 women have so far accused President Donald Trump of various types of sexual harassment and assault, with the latest charge (from writer E. Jean Carroll) being outright rape. Trump denies all the charges, often in a cruel, vindictive manner.
In Orange County, sexual harassment allegations are now piling up on state Assembly Member Bill Brough (R-Dana Point). On June 24, the Sacramento Bee published a detailed accounting of the allegations against Brough from three Republican women (only two are named). The Orange County Register earlier reported on the allegations against Brough on June 21.
Brough denies all the charges. “I have been on the end of many political attacks but I will not stand for personal attacks on me and my family,” Brough told the Bee. “I have done nothing wrong.” (NOTE: none of the women who’ve come forward publicly have accused Brough’s family of any sort of impropriety).
The first, Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, told the Bee that Brough made “unwanted sexual advances” at a retirement party when they both served on the Dana Point City Council in 2011. According to Bartlett, Brough grabbed her as she was trying to leave the party. “He wouldn’t let go and said something to the effect of, ‘Let’s get out of here. Let’s go get a drink and do something.’ And I just kept saying, ‘Let go of me, Bill. Let go of me.'”
Bartlett said she filed a complaint against Brough with the City of Dana Point at the time, but the city took no action “since no witnesses were present.”
Another Republican, Maria Elena Banks, told the Bee that Brough placed his hand on her leg while they were sitting at a Dana Point bar in 2014, shortly before he joined the state Assembly. “I removed his hand, and I said, ‘Bill, no, you are married,'” Banks told the Bee. “He says, ‘Well, do you want to go to your house?’ And I say, “Are you serious? I just kind of said that’s not happening, so he never did another attempt on me.”
Another woman, who isn’t named, filed a complaint against Brough with the Assembly. The Bee didn’t outline the charges in that complaint, but did report that in March 2018 the Assembly Rules Committee told Brough that “the state couldn’t determine that Brough violated state ethics policies.”
So far, only the Orange County Young Democrats (OCYD) have publicly called for Brough’s resignation. “We stand with the Republican women who have bravely come forward to report Assemblymember Brough’s egregious behavior,” said a June 22 statement from the organization. “We are tired of watching men in politics abuse their positions of power to prey on women. No one should ever feel sexually intimidated, harassed, or dehumanized – ever. No one should feel sexually threatened when engaging with an elected leader.”
In October 2017, OCYD called for the resignations of Erik Taylor, the former executive director of the Democratic Party of Orange County, and Julio Perez, the executive director of Orange County Labor Federation, following sexual harassment allegations against both men. They were removed shortly thereafter.
Earlier this year, Brough was one of 78 Assembly members to co-sponsor ACR 67, which designated April 2019 as Sexual Assault Awareness Month and named April 24, 2019 as Denim Day in California. “It is crucial to hold perpetrators responsible for sexual attacks, and to prevent sexual violence at every opportunity,” states the measure.
Click here to read the Bee‘s June 24 story.
Anthony Pignataro has been a journalist since 1996. He spent a dozen years as Editor of MauiTime, the last alt weekly in Hawaii. He also wrote three trashy novels about Maui, which were published by Event Horizon Press. But he got his start at OC Weekly, and returned to the paper in 2019 as a Staff Writer.