Two female employees, who worked for the city of San Bernardino, resigned last week claiming they were subjected to continuous sexual harassment and hostile behavior by Mayor John Valdivia.
Speaking at a press conference in front of San Bernardino City Hall on Thursday, Feb. 6, the two women, Karen Cervantes, former assistant to the mayor for four months, and Mirna Cisneros, a former city senior customer service representative for the city for over a year before working for the mayor’s office in the same position, claimed that the mayor has failed to report contributions and utilized city time and resources to raise campaign funds, among other illegal financial transactions.
The women's attorney Tristan Pelayes told reporters, “The allegations, are substantiated by numerous text messages, digital evidence and witness accounts that were documented by the victims and reported to city administration, to no avail.”
"He would talk about his sexual escapades and desires in front of me and others," said Cervantes. "After reporting the mayor's inappropriate behavior and being told that because he was an elected official nothing would be done, I knew I had no choice but to take legal action and resign from my position."
Cisneros said, "I was subjected to countless inappropriate acts of harassment,” and "he offered me his credit card, said he would buy me whatever I wanted, and that his wife didn’t have to know."
Pelayes said it was only after the two women “resigned and retained an attorney that the city started looking into the claims they had been aware of but did nothing about.”
The city has since begun an internal investigation.
Pelayes said the city has refused to work collectively with them, to hire an independent investigator and to place the mayor on leave during the investigation.
These claims come only a few months after a complaint was formally filed against Mayor Valdivia by former City Manager Andrea Miller for harassment, discrimination and whistleblower retaliation, among other allegations. Miller said she was terminated in May of 2019 "after exposing the mayor's misconduct.”
"This case is reminiscent of the Bell scandal, based on the scale of the misconduct and corruption by Mayor Valdivia," said Pelayes. "Mayor Valdiva’s abuse of power has cost my clients their jobs and impacted their mental and physical health, not to mention the disservice to those who put their trust in him as a community leader."
Pelayes said he would be filing a claim against the city of San Bernardino. The city will have 45 days to respond, and, if they deny the claim, Pelayes said his office would be filing a lawsuit against the city of San Bernardino.
Pelayes said that “based on the evidence, there is a belief that there may be other victims who have yet to come forward.”
If you have been a victim of or witness to these allegations, contact the Law Offices of Pelayes & Yu at (844) 998-1033 or by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Highland Community News attempted to contact the city of San Bernardino for a statement but none was provided.