Alleged sexual harassment victim takes legal action against Lynwood, councilman

LYNWOOD, Calif. (KABC) -- The woman who claims she was sexually harassed by Lynwood City Councilman Edwin Hernandez announced legal action against him and the city on Wednesday.

Monica Ochoa spoke publicly saying she was sexually harassed for more than five years by Hernandez while working for the city.

She said she's suing because after coming forward and cooperating with a city investigation, the city has not acted and Hernandez remains in office.

"I was placed on administrative leave and the city has done nothing but pressure me to resign. I feel that my 18 years of dedication and public service mean nothing to the city," she said. "I feel like I am being punished by the city I served because I spoke up about being sexually harassed. I feel like I am being re-victimized all over again."

RELATED: Lynwood mayor pro tem steps down amid harassment complaint

Ochoa said she reported the harassment earlier this year while nine months pregnant, and when she returned to work after having the baby, she was put on administrative leave.

The results of the city's investigation in the case have not been made public.

Ochoa's attorneys, who also represent a second woman accusing Hernandez of sexual harassment, claim that they were in settlement talks with attorneys representing Lynwood but the city refused to settle or answer their questions. Now, they've filed this suit.

"The council has not taken any action regarding Councilmember Hernandez and did not plan on doing so unless a settlement agreement was reached," said Lynwood Deputy City Attorney Maribel Medina.

Attorney Lisa Bloom also spoke, saying the incident is another example of why women don't come forward about sexual harassment.

"Many people say to me, 'Why don't more sexual harassment victims come forward in the era of 'MeToo,' why don't more women complain?' This is why: because their complaints are so often swept under the rug," Bloom said.

Hernandez is leaving office in a month because he has termed out. His legal team issued a statement saying in part that Bloom "has been hurling unsubstantiated accusations in an attempt to extort tax payer dollars to pay her legal fees, and to rehabilitate her tarnished reputation."

"Further, despite her PR campaign, Bloom has spent the last several months engaging in closed session background discussions with the council, colluding with political opponents of Edwin in an attempt to extort close to a million dollars in tax payer dollars for herself and her client. The council has yet to release the findings of their report, because it's exculpatory for Edwin, which doesn't comport with the goals of Edwin's political opponents. Bottom line: Bloom is holding a presser because she's concerned about the claim we submitted last week, and she knows that she has no other way to generate money for herself and her client."

Attorneys for the city of Lynwood said they're looking forward to going to trial, and the city's investigation will be made public then.
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