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Feb 20, 3:01 PM EST

The Latest: Lawmaker calls misconduct claims political smear

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AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- The Latest on alleged sexual misconduct at the California Legislature (all times local):

12:01 p.m.

A California assemblywoman says accusations of sexual misconduct against her are part of a political effort to discredit her.

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia is on an unpaid leave of absence amid an investigation into whether she groped Denial Fierro, a former staffer to a colleague, in 2014. Another former staffer has filed a complaint alleging Garcia asked him to play a drinking game and he was fired for complaining about it.

Garcia, a Bell Gardens Democrat, denies the claims.

She alleges a private investigator has been calling her former staff members and tenants in properties she owns seeking information to discredit her. Her statement does not specify who she thinks is behind the effort.

Fierro says he stands by his story and is unaware of efforts by a private investigator.

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6 a.m.

Sexual misconduct in the California Legislature has dominated the conversation since lawmakers returned in January, with the burgeoning scandal taking one surprising twist after another.

It will be the focus again when lawmakers return Tuesday and learn whether an investigation cleared Sen. Tony Mendoza of misconduct allegations or set him up for possible expulsion. Mendoza has sued the Senate, claiming he was unfairly suspended and that racism might have been a factor.

Meanwhile, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia is on leave after being accused of groping a male legislative staffer.

Democratic Assemblyman Mark Stone said public perception of the Legislature has been harmed by the scandal but needed changes also are coming because of it.

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