This story was updated at 12:40 p.m. to include a comment from a spokesperson for the city of Lynwood.
One month after Monica Ochoa, a senior accounting executive with the city of Lynwood, filed a complaint against then-Mayor Pro Tem Edwin Hernandez alleging sexual harassment, a second woman has come forward.
Attorney Lisa Bloom on Thursday, March 22, announced that former Lynwood Public Information Officer Marisela Santana has filed a complaint with the city against Hernandez, claiming he sexually harassed her and then forced her out of her job.
“I thought I could forget about this forever, because it was hard enough to get through it the first time, but it felt wrong to continue staying quiet,” Santana said in the press release. “I was wronged by this individual in the worst way, I lost my job because he wanted me out. I declined his invitation to be more than friends with him and then everything changed.”
The city is conducting an investigation into allegations by Ochoa that Hernandez made unwelcome sexual advances toward her from February 2016 to December 2017.
Ed Coghlan, founder of the Kilkenny Group, which has been contracted by the city to deal with communication, confirmed to us that a second person has come forward and has shared her experiences with an independent third party.
“When the council found out about the complaints, they directed that there be a full investigation by a third party,” Coghlan said. “That investigation is now in its final stages, and then a report will be submitted to the city.”
Immediately after the LA Weekly broke the story about Ochoa's allegations in mid-February, Hernandez voluntarily stepped away from his position as mayor pro tem, though he still retains a place on the City Council.
Santana will cooperate with the city's investigation, Bloom said in the release.
Santana alleges that in 2013, when Hernandez was elected to the City Council, he went out of his way to make life difficult for her, and nobody would help.
““People knew that he was harassing me, even my supervisors knew,” she said in the release. “I spoke with human resources several times, but I didn’t feel supported, so when they asked if I wanted to file grievances, I always said no, because I figured things would only get worse.
“Unfortunately, they did and I found myself in a position where I didn’t want to use being a victim in order to save my job. I wanted my work to save my job, but in the end, my work wasn’t enough,” she said in the release. “There came a point when I asked him to stop and to please let me keep my job, but he only laughed and said, ‘why should I care about your feelings, when you didn’t care about mine?’”
Santana alleges Hernandez then targeted her work and tried to discredit her in the community. When he became mayor in 2015-16, she said he forced the then-city manager to terminate her in 2016.
Santana said she was coming forward to help Ochoa and other city employees who might find themselves in a similar situation.
“They’re scared and I know they love their jobs and their families and speaking up will only complicate everything,” Santana continued. “I know. I was once there. I felt that staying quiet would be best for me at the moment, even though it was not.”
Bloom renewed her call for Hernandez to resign.”He is not fit to lead,” she said in the release.