San Bernardino Mayor John Valdivia denied recent accusations of sexual harassment made by two of his former employees who claim he belittled and mistreated them.
The accusations stem from Karen Cervantes, Valdivia's former assistant, and Mirna Cisneros, a former customer service representative for the city. Both women say the mayor repeatedly sexually harassed and mistreated them until they had little choice but to resign last week.
"When I refused and didn't respond to his advances and inappropriate correspondence, he would mistreat me, yell at me and make comments insinuating my job would be in jeopardy if I didn't do what he wanted me to do," Cervantes said.
Cervantes also said the harassment, which allegedly lasted over the four months she spent as Valdivia's assistant, was so intense that she developed health issues.
The former workers also claim Valdiva made illegal financial transactions, and that the complaints they made to a supervisor went unheard until they hired a lawyer.
"[The harassment] included him calling the office saying he was drunk and needing assistance making an appointment with Councilmember Henry Nickel [and] if need be to get it done, to perform a sexual favor on one of Nickel's staff members," Cisneros said.
Valdiva denied the claims in a statement.
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"These allegations are false, politically driven and interrupt representative democracy. This is a personnel matter with an investigation underway and as such, I will make no further comment until the completion of the investigation," he said.
Tristan Pelayes, the attorney representing the former city employees, argued Valdiva's statement was merely a deflection.
"To call it a 'politically motivated move' is a typical reaction by a public official when he has nothing truthful to say," Pelayes said.
Cervantes and Cisneros said they are in the process of filing a lawsuit, with plans to first file a civil claim against the city next week.
"I want other people going through the same thing to feel safe, not to be sexually harassed anymore by him," Cisneros said.