North County Democratic congressional candidate Phil Janowicz’s campaign manager resigned in the face of allegations of sexual harassment from his time as executive director of the Democratic Party of Orange County (DPOC).
Meanwhile, evidence has surfaced about what fueled some complaints about Erik Taylor, the now former campaign manager.
Here is the full statement from Janowicz, who is seeking the 39th Congressional District seat currently occupied by Rep. Ed Royce (R-Brea):
Yesterday afternoon, I accepted the resignation of a senior member of my campaign staff. There have been allegations that have arisen during his time at a previous employer. He vehemently denies these allegations, and I await the results of the formal investigation. I want to state firmly and unequivocally: sexual harassment and sexual assault have absolutely no place in our society and absolutely no place on a political campaign that fights for equality, inclusiveness, and empowering others.
I have always and will continue to encourage those working on my campaign to come to me directly should any impropriety occur or if anyone feels uncomfortable. As a teacher, I was available to my students whenever they felt intimidated by others and personally led the charge against two harassers in CSUF chemistry. I will continue my open door policy in this campaign as I have since the beginning. No one should ever feel like they can’t speak out and be heard.
And personally, I’d like to thank my friends and supporters for reaching out to me the past few days. I’m very grateful for all your support.
Note that in the statement Janowicz does not mention Taylor by name or title, referring to him only as a senior staff member with the campaign. However, the Weekly and the Janowicz campaign have exchanged emails that mention Taylor by name and confirm he is the subject of the allegations since Wednesday.
That is the same day that Danielle Serbin, the chairwoman of Orange County Young Democrats, released a statement pointing out that young women were posting messages as part of the Facebook #MeToo campaign accusing powerful party leaders with DPOC and Orange County Labor Federation (OCLF) with sexual harassment. Serbin later confirmed for the Weekly that Taylor and Julio Perez, the OCLF executive director, were the men outed in the #MeToo messages.
The Weekly was made aware of the statement about the same time we were sent these messages that Taylor is alleged to have sent to a young female DPOC intern when he ran the organization:
The Orange County Register reported on incidents that took place between 2014 and ’15, including one of the men allegedly touching a woman’s thigh, prompting her to flee to safety in a DPOC headquarters supply closet, where he cornered her.
In another incident, the same man allegedly pushed his body against the woman and reached under her skirt and tried to remove her underwear. She says she did not report the incidents to police because she feared losing her job.
Before Taylor’s resignation, the Janowicz campaign said it was taking the allegations seriously but could not confirm the campaign manager had actually done anything wrong.
Other Democrats who are seeking the same 39th Congressional District seat called for swift action, however.
“This isn’t hard,” says Dr. Mai-Khanh Tran in an email to the Weekly. “There is no excuse for sexual harassment. End of discussion.
“Every woman knows what it’s like to be treated differently because of her gender—from the quiet indignities suffered in silence for fear of ‘making a scene,’ to being denied the right to make her own healthcare decisions, to working harder and longer for a smaller paycheck. Enough is enough. We can’t change our culture overnight, but we can ensure that those in power are held responsible for abusing their positions. I will never tolerate sexual harassment or abuse from any member of my staff, either on my campaign or once I’m in Congress.”
Another candidate, Sam Jammal, tweeted the following:
The Weekly previously reported this statement from Jessica Perez, speaking for another 39th Congressional District Democratic campaign, Andy Thorburn for Congress: “Mr. Thorburn believes there must be a zero-tolerance policy towards sexual harassment of any kind. Mr. Thorburn believes sexual harassment should be cause for immediate dismissal from any business, political campaign or organization.”
Gil Cisneros is another Democrat seeking the 39th seat.
Our previous report includes a statement from the DPOC and its chairwoman Fran Sdao saying that the allegations about the former executive director are being taken seriously and that new reforms are being rolled out to protect victims and punish perpretrators—up to reporting crimes to local law enforcement.
But Fullerton Democratic Party activist Barbara Nelson is not so convinced leadership will follow through, noting that they have known since June about misconduct allegations filed by several woman that caused Benny Diaz to quit as an official with the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and shutter the Garden Grove LULAC Council heds run for many years.
“He still sits on the [Democratic] Central committee,” Nelson says.
OC Weekly Editor-in-Chief Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the alternative newsweekly’s first calendar editor.