A Democrat in the California state Senate has been banned from embracing colleagues and other co-workers after a probe found him engaging in unwanted hugging and touching.
State Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, was the subject of a state Senate report released Thursday that details rampant sexual harassment in the Capitol in Sacramento.
The investigation, which included more than 30 interviews with 28 witnesses, examined four complaints dating to 2010, involving three female lawmakers and a male sergeant at arms.
The report concluded that Hertzberg’s hugs made the colleagues uncomfortable, although they were not intended to be sexual.
The report names none of the accusers, but former Republican Assemblywoman Linda Halderman has publicly accused Hertzberg of repeatedly hugging her for prolonged periods of time between 2010 and 2012. She asked him to stop at one point.
Halderman, 49, refused to cooperate with the inquiry regarding the allegations, but investigators still found that Hertzberg, 63, made her uncomfortable, although they noted they could not find evidence that the unwanted hugs continued after she asked to stop.
The investigators corroborated a complaint from a male sergeant at arms who said in 2016 the lawmaker was “grinding” against him in a manner that was uncomfortable and “offensive,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
The lawmaker’s behavior over the years earned him nicknames such as “Hugsberg” and “Huggy Bear” as he often greeted men and women alike with hugs.
The Senate Rules Committee formally reprimanded the lawmaker Tuesday, ordering him to “not initiate hugs” because such behavior was, at times, unwelcome. He will not face any disciplinary measure.
“I understand that I cannot control how a hug is received, and that not everyone has the ability to speak up about unwelcome behavior,” Hertzberg said in a statement. “It is my responsibility to be mindful of this, and to respect the Rules Committee’s request to not initiate hugs.”
Republican state Sen. Joel Anderson of Alpine said it’s troubling that none of the accusers are named in the report as it shows the Legislature doesn’t have enough protections for people filing claims.
“If they don’t feel comfortable, then how does the rank and file employee feel comfortable? How does that person in the public feel comfortable?” Anderson said.
So far, three California lawmakers have resigned over accusations of sexually explicit misconduct, with one stepping down while facing the threat of expulsion.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.