A lawsuit against Fiona Ma, treasurer of California, who claims that sexual harassment can be justified, a judge decided Thursday.
Judith Blackwell, a former senior employee of Ma’s office, filed the lawsuit in July 2021 in Sacramento Superior Court. In addition to sexual harassment, it alleged wrongful termination and racial discrimination.
The lawsuit alleged that Ma often rented hotel rooms in Sacramento for staff to stay in after working late. Blackwell claimed that while they shared rooms, Ma repeatedly called her into her bedroom, exposed her bare backside and climbed into Blackwell’s bed with her.
In his ruling, first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Christopher Krueger dismissed Blackwell’s allegations of racial discrimination and wrongful termination. But he said Blackwell’s allegations, if believed by a jury, could establish that Ma sexually harassed her.
Ma also often shared hotel rooms with her then-employee Genevieve Jopanda, a Sacramento Bee analysis of expense reports in 2021 found. That was to save money, Ma said then.
Ma has denied the allegations and filed a motion to dismiss Blackwell’s case. Her spokesman, Steve Maviglio, told the Associated Press on Friday that her office is “satisfied that a number of allegations have gone away and that the treasurer can have her day in court.”
“The allegations are merited by a disgruntled employee, and we look forward to having them proven false,” said Maviglio.
A settlement conference is scheduled for Wednesday, according to court records.
Ma, a Democrat, served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors before being elected state treasurer in 2018. The treasurer manages state investments, serves on the board of its pension funds and oversees programs that provide tax credits for affordable housing and funding for public works projects.
Ma was also previously elected to the state Assembly. She has said she plans to run for lieutenant governor in 2026.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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