It wasn’t just shame or fear of physical harm that kept Patricia Todd silent.
Todd says she waited five years to file a criminal complaint accusing Assemblyman Bill Brough of raping her in 2015 partly for a different reason — she didn’t want to lose her career.
The former legislative aid for state lawmakers says now that she was a victim of a persistent culture at the State Capitol that protects politicians while punishing staffers who try to stand up for themselves.
“It was very, very common knowledge,” Todd said this week, days after filing her complaint with the Sacramento County District Attorney.
“One word from a legislator, one word from a chief of staff, you have nowhere to go in Sacramento.”
In the complaint now being investigated by Sacramento police, Todd accuses Brough, R-Dana Point, of raping her in her car on July 7, 2015 as she drove him home from a meeting to discuss a possible secretary position with a new caucus Brough was forming.
Brough hasn’t responded to repeated requests for comment about Todd’s allegation. But he previously has denied allegations from five other women who, over the past 18 months, have publicly accused him of sexual harassment and aggressive behavior. Brough has described those allegations as politically motivated.
At the time of the alleged incident, Todd worked as deputy legislative director, specializing in budget and financial issues, for state Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa. She says she was pushed into telling another male superior about the rape shortly after it happened. And after sharing her story, she says she was urged not to tell anyone and was punished professionally — claims that her colleague now vehemently denies.
Todd says she also feels abandoned by the California Legislature’s Workplace Conduct Unit. She says she shared her allegation with the unit in August and offered to provide evidence to back her claims. But, she says, she hasn’t heard from them since.
Told to keep quiet?
A couple days after her reported attack, Todd said in her criminal complaint that Moorlach’s chief of staff Tim Clark noticed something was wrong and called her into his office. But Todd said she did not disclose the incident to Clark at that point, ducking into a restroom to compose herself.
Two months later, during the California Republican Party’s convention in Anaheim, Todd said Clark cornered her in the lobby of a hotel and pushed her to tell him what was going on. She says she shared some details about the alleged incident, but didn’t say who raped her. She says Clark brought up Brough’s name, and that he told her there were a number of complaints on file against the assemblyman. When Todd confirmed who she was talking about, she says Clark told her not to tell Moorlach or report what happened.
“He was very adamant that I could never say anything,” Todd said. “I couldn’t report it. I couldn’t tell the senator. And I couldn’t go to the rules committee.”
When asked about Todd’s allegation, Clark declined to discuss “personnel matters,” but said recently via email that any claims suggesting he discouraged her from reporting the attack are false.
“This staff member told me about an alleged incident that took place on her personal time,” Clark said. “I strongly urged her to report this to authorities and referred her to a victims-rights attorney, who I also spoke to (about) to the incident.” Clark provided the name of the Sacramento-area attorney he says he contacted at the time, but she didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
Clark also denies that he brought up Brough’s name. And he said it was Todd who “demanded that nobody be told.” As a result, he said, “I consulted Senate authorities without disclosing names, as requested, and followed the advice from State Senate personnel. Since this was an incident outside of work and in compliance with her desire for confidentiality, Senator Moorlach was not briefed.”
Todd insists Clark never offered her any help or followed up to ask if she was OK. And she denies asking him to stay silent.
“I didn’t say that or anything like that. I wanted Tim Clark to tell Sen. Moorlach and protect me.”
Moorlach, who is running for a second stint on the Orange County Board of Supervisors after losing his own state Senate reelection bid, said recently that he knew nothing of the reported incident until Nov. 3, after state investigators contacted Clark for questioning.
“If I knew any woman was a victim of assault, I would strain every fiber in my body to encourage her to report the criminal perpetrator and bring him to justice,” Moorlach wrote in an email to the Republican Party of Orange County in late November. At the time, he was seeking the party’s endorsement for his bid to fill the county supervisor seat left vacant by Congresswoman-elect Michelle Steel.
But former GOP state Sen. Dick Ackerman refutes Moorlach’s claim. He told the Register on Dec. 2 that he talked with Moorlach three months ago about the alleged incident.
Ackerman said he’d read about Todd’s accusations in RightOnDaily.com, a blog by Aaron Park that tracks GOP interests in Sacramento. That blog item did not use Todd’s name, at her request, and it was posted months before she filed a criminal complaint.
Ackerman said Moorlach didn’t clearly address the allegation during their conversation, focusing instead on criticism of Park.
Moorlach told the Register on Friday, Dec. 4, that he spoke with Ackerman on Sept. 11 but that he doesn’t recall any conversation about this topic.
The Orange County GOP voted 35-1 on Monday, Nov. 30, to endorse Moorlach. Party chair Fred Whitaker wrote, “John Moorlach is the strongest candidate for this seat, and he has the full backing of our resources and grassroots organization.”
Moorlach said Clark is serving as a volunteer advisor on his current campaign.
After Todd told Clark about her alleged assault, she said the tone in the office immediately changed from friendly to cold.
She says she was gradually stripped of her professional duties. She was no longer asked to travel to the 37th District in Orange County, which Moorlach represented, or to accompany Moorlach to evening fundraising events. And when the office’s legislative director quit, Todd said she was given those duties — and told she was doing good work — but was never given the job title or a pay raise.
“I became persona non grata,” Todd said.
Clark disputes those claims.
“To my knowledge no employees — male or female — made complaints related to the working environment in the Moorlach office under my tenure,” he said.
Despite her growing frustration, Todd stayed silent. She worried that no one would believe her allegation about Brough, and that her career would suffer if she were black-balled in Sacramento.
“In 2015, at the State Capitol, no one was going to believe a staffer over an elected person. They just weren’t. Anytime anybody went to the Senate or Assembly rules committee about an official or a chief of staff, inevitably they would be taken out of their office and either put into a caucus or some other no-name office until they were uncomfortable enough to leave the legislature.”
Plus, she added, “This was all I had done for over 13 years.”
But in 2016, after a year of feeling invisible and 13 months after the alleged incident, Todd walked away from a career she loved.
She has not made any formal complaint about her treatment in Moorlach’s office, and it’s unclear if there would be any financial incentive to do so. Though the statute of limitations for civil complaints about workplace harassment or retaliation was extended earlier this year in California, Todd’s experience in 2015 and ’16 remains outside the three-year time limit to sue for any workplace damages she might claim.
Instead, Todd said she just wants to hear Clark and Moorlach acknowledge that they know what happened to her.
“Not one person ever asked if I needed help,” she said. “This should not be happening.”
Details of investigation unclear
The California Legislature’s Workplace Conduct Unit is the third known government agency to have received complaints about Brough for allegedly sexually harassing or touching at least six women over the past decade.
Investigations by the Dana Point city attorney and Assembly Rules Committee were inconclusive, while the WCU earlier this year stripped Brough of committee titles and required him to take harassment training after investigating a claim filed in 2019.
The legislature launched the WCU in February 2019 to investigate claims of workplace misconduct, including sexual harassment or discrimination. At the time, the #MeToo movement had led to allegations against several lawmakers who were forced to resign from office or face discipline.
On Aug. 31 of this year, an attorney for the WCU contacted Todd after being told about her possible complaint from one of the other women who has accused Brough of sexual misconduct.
Todd said after she told the WCU attorney that Brough had raped her and shared details about the alleged incident, she said could provide photos of bruising and medical records that could confirm she’d been tested for sexually transmitted diseases at the time of the alleged incident. She also provided contact information for two friends she’d told about the alleged incident at that time.
But Todd says she hasn’t heard a word from the WCU since that date, with no requests for her records or so much as a call offering to help get her support.
Todd said she fears the unit — which has fallen under criticism for a lack of transparency among a flood of complaints from Capitol staffers — is just another Band-Aid put in place to “make people feel better.”
Workplace Conduct Unit director Julia Johnson said they don’t discuss cases that are under investigation, and she didn’t respond to requests for comment on Todd’s concerns.
Representatives for Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, said they don’t have any information about the claim. However, those offices typically are notified when an investigation is complete.
Todd says her interactions with the WCU have left her feeling even more alone.
“If they were the kind of unit that they should be,” Todd said.
“When somebody tells the person at the other end of the phone that a rape has happened by a then-elected official still serving, something should have happened instead of hanging up and never hearing from them again.”
Source: Orange County Register