More Democrats are under another ethics complaint: this time, under accusations of false imprisonment.
In a new ethics complaint filed last week, Democratic Rep. Lydia Hernandez accused fellow Latino Caucus lawmakers — Reps. Cesar Aguilar, Lorena Austin, Analise Ortiz, and Mariana Sandoval — of holding her hostage with “violence” and “barrio tactics” in her office over political differences for over an hour last February.
The alleged incident occurred a little over a week after the caucus had elected Hernandez as their chair for that year. The caucus chose her, despite her tendency to align with Republicans on certain issues in the past, namely opposing abortion.
The alleged hostage situation in Hernandez’s office concerned fellow Latino Caucus leaders’ attempts to persuade Hernandez to allow them to take over for her, following a dispute over the structure, organization, and function of the caucus and each member’s respective roles and duties.
Hernandez claimed that her fellow members blocked the door and surrounded her as she attempted to leave her office for another meeting, and told her she couldn’t leave unless she fell in line with their political agenda. She said she ceased meeting with the caucus after another poor meeting after the alleged incident.
The accused disputed all of Hernandez’s accounts of their interactions to the media and in formal interviews with legislative attorneys.
Hernandez also attempted to file a criminal complaint with the Arizona Department of Public Safety over the alleged incident last month, though no investigation was undertaken because there was no evidence of a crime.
Hernandez unsuccessfully sought relief last May, when she filed a 43-page workplace harassment complaint. In that complaint, Hernandez claimed that the Democratic Caucus’ then-leader Andres Cano told her in a meeting to refrain from speaking in representation of her caucus, publicly or otherwise.
Cano denied the allegations as conspiracy, and also denied her allegation that that he ever had ordered staff to deprioritize her legislation.
Hernandez also claimed that her caucus co-chair, Sen. Anna Hernandez, engaged in “aggressive, disrespectful, unprofessional, tactless, vulgar, and offensive language and behavior” to “sabotage” and “undermine” her. Hernandez further claimed that progressive organizations would only recognize Sen. Hernandez as the Latino Caucus leader and invited her to speak.
State House attorneys reviewed and dismissed the alleged false imprisonment incident last August for lack of evidence, though they remarked that Hernandez came off as sincere and credible in her claims.
The length of time between the alleged incident and the renewed ethics complaint was reportedly due to Hernandez only learning of the attorneys’ dismissal last December.
The accused have until next Thursday to respond to Hernandez’s complaint.
This latest ethics complaint comes shortly after the resignation of their former colleague, Leezah Sun, that followed a lengthy ethics investigation that was headed toward a House vote on expulsion.
Throughout Hernandez’s complaints, Sun was listed as an ally who empathized with Hernandez’s alleged treatment by her peers. Sun allegedly told Hernandez that the other Democratic lawmakers were bullying her for being too progressive; Hernandez planned to speak in Sun’s defense had the House taken its expulsion vote.