A government watchdog group filed today a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission against the lobbyists who reportedly engaged in extramarital affairs with ex-Assemblyman Mike Duvall .
Duvall, a Republican, resigned in September after a video tape surfaced in which he was caught on a hot microphone bragging about his sexual trysts with two women. One woman named in the complaint is Heidi DeJong Barsuglia, a lobbyist for Sempra Energy, a utility company that Duvall was assigned to regulate as vice-chair of the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee. The second woman named in the complaint, referred to as "Char" in the recorded conversation, is also reported to be a lobbyist.
Common Cause, the group that is filing the complaint, says the women who allegedly engaged in the affairs violated a section of the Political Reform Act that prohibits lobbyists from performing acts that place elected officials "under personal obligation to the lobbyist."
"We certainly believe that engaging in an ongoing sexual affairs with a married man places you under an obligation in two different ways. One is feeling beholden to that person in order to maintain the relationship, and secondly, being beholden to that person in order to keep them quiet," said Derek Cressman, western regional director for Common Cause, which is filing the complaint.
Duvall said in a statement posted to his Web site last month that his resignation is not an admission that he had affairs, instead identifying his offense as "inappropriate storytelling." Barsuglia has also denied an affair, and Sempra officials are continuing to conduct an investigation into the allegations made in the tape. She is on a leave of absence for the duration of the investigation, a Sempra spokesman said.
Cressman said the recorded conversation, in which Duvall dished graphic and lewd details of his sexual encounters, is evidence enough that the affair took place, but added that they believe the FPPC could depose both Duvall and Assemblyman Jeff Miller, who was at the receiving end of the recorded conversation, to confirm the identity of the women mentioned and the actions described. Miller has told The Bee that he "wasn't paying attention" during the conversation.
FPPC Executive Director Roman Porter confirmed that the complaint was filed and said the commission has 14 days to determine whether it will open an investigation into the claims.
If the commission, which enforces the PRA, determines that the law was broken, it can issue a penalty of up to $5,000 for each violation. Violations of the PRA are punishable as misdemeanors, but that action would have to be brought by the attorney general, district attorney or city attorney, Porter said.
Sempra spokesman Art Larson issued a written response to the complaint, echoing the company's previous commitment to comply with any authorities who decide to investigate the matter.
"Sempra Energy takes very seriously any reports involving the conduct of our employees," he wrote, adding that the employee has denied the "speculative allegations' referenced in the complaint.
Common Cause has also called for the Attorney General's office to launch a criminal investigation into the actions alleged in the tapes, but the agency has said there is not sufficient evidence to merit an investigation.
Assembly Speaker Karen Bass had also directed the Assembly Ethics Committee to conduct an inquiry into the tapes, but the investigation was halted after a lawyer for the Assembly said the committee does not have authority to investigate a former lawmaker once he or she has resigned.
Read the complaint, which was filed today, here.
Post updated at 1:16 p.m. with response from Sempra.