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EXCLUSIVE: Asm. Cristina Garcia Hit With Retaliation, False Imprisonment Complaint

Asm. Cristina Garcia is accused of attempting to fire a former staffer using a ill-conceived scheme.

 
 

BY BRIAN HEWS

Hews Media Group-Los Cerritos Community News has learned that a former staffer, who was fired by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell), has filed a complaint, among other things, retaliation by Garcia’s Chief of Staff and Tosha Cherry, the Human Resources Director for the Assembly.

Teala Leon, who was employed as the Communications Director for Garcia, claims she was fired in December 2019 in retaliation for reporting illegal activity committed by Garcia and her Chief of Staff, Ashley Labar.

The lawsuit first alleges that Garcia’s former Chief of Staff, Timothy Reardon, kept copies of the personnel records of Garcia’s staff in his office in violation of Assembly rules, and that Garcia and Labar knew about it.

One of those records was David Kernick’s, who accused Garcia of sexual-harassment and drinking on the job.

Labar obtained the personnel files when Reardon retired, keeping them illegally.

In an effort to discredit Mr. Kernick, Leon alleged Garcia and Labar ordered her to leak a letter to the press that Reardon had written to discredit Kernick and justify his termination.

Leon also alleged actions that have been well-chronicled in the media, that Garcia ordered Labar to require all staff personnel to work on Garcia’s campaign and litigation tasks during work hours, including taking calls and conducting business in Garcia’s government office, which is a violation of California Government Code.

Leon claims she became increasingly alarmed by the actions of Garcia and Labar and tried to distance herself from their actions, and that is when Garcia and Labar “manufactured” a scheme to terminate Leon.

In May of 2019, Leon claims Garcia’s staff attended an event thrown by the California Beer and Beverage Distributors called “Picnic in the Park,” where alcohol was served. 

Leon said that most Capitol employees were in attendance and were drinking hard, but after two beers she went back to her office to work on a speech for Garcia. 

Leon claims that is when Garcia, Labar and Tosha Cherry, the Human Resources Director for the Assembly, hatched a plot to terminate her.

Cherry first went to Leon’s office, detained her, and forced her to undergo a field sobriety examination by an on-duty nurse, which Leon called “humiliating.”

Leon was telling Cherry and the nurse she was not drunk but they forced her to take the test.

The test results showed that Leon was not drunk.

Garcia, Labar, and Cherry tried to explain and justify why they tested Leon later in a staff meeting, particularly since Garcia was alleged to have a kegerator in her office, in an attempt to stem the anger by other staffers.

Leon reported the incident to the Assembly’s Workplace Conduct Unit (WCU), alleging that Garcia and Labar had engaged in discrimination and retaliation, while requiring her and others to engage in campaign work in violation of California Government Code.

Months later, the WCU launched an investigation into Leon’s allegations and notified Garcia and Labar of the investigation. 

There are major questions as to why the WCU would notify officials who are targeted in an investigation, sources are telling HMG-LCCN that several people have been fired by officials like Garcia after they notified the WCU.

Two weeks later, without giving a reason, Leon was fired; this was in the wake of several other staffer leaving, alleging similar behavior by Garcia and Labar.

The complaint ends, “Ms. Leon alleges she was terminated because Labar and Garcia feared she might report the leak of Kernick’s personnel records, the campaigning on Assembly hours, misuse of taxpayer resources and other unlawful and unethical activity and in direct retaliation for her refusal to perform campaign work and her report to the WCU.”

“Garcia, Labar and Cherry violated my civil rights, under the color of authority, by conspiring to and detaining me without probable cause for an examination by a healthcare provider.” 

Causes of action against Leon include false imprisonmen, defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, liability of an elected official, negligent supervision, training, retention, and breach of mandatory duty, and violations of the Labor Code.

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