No more hugs from Senator 'Hugsberg' after he's told to embrace change
Sacramento: A California state senator has been told to stop hugging people after an investigation concluded that his trademark embraces made multiple female colleagues uncomfortable.
However, the investigation found Senator Bob Hertzberg's frequent hugs are not intended to be sexual and more often than not are not unwelcome.
Hertzberg, a Democrat from the Los Angeles area, has earned nicknames such as "Hugsberg" and "Huggy Bear" for greeting men and women alike with giant hugs.
The Senate Rules Committee formally reprimanded him this week and told him not to hug people anymore, but he will not otherwise face discipline.
Hertzberg released a letter apologising to anyone who felt his frequent embraces were unwelcome. The 63-year-old said he has greeted people with hugs all his life and they were intended as "a gesture of warmth and kindness and a reflection of my exuberance".
Three California lawmakers have resigned over allegations of sexually explicit misconduct, with one stepping down while facing the threat of expulsion.
The investigation into Hertzberg covered four complaints dating back to 2010, involving three female lawmakers and a male sergeant at arms. It found he hugged two current and one former lawmaker in ways that made them uncomfortable and made the sergeant uncomfortable by "dancing briefly with his backside" against him.
None of the accusers are named, but former Republican politician Linda Halderman has previously spoken to reporters about her accusations against Hertzberg.
She said Hertzberg repeatedly hugged her for prolonged periods of time during her term from 2010 to 2012 and at one point thrust into her after she told him to stop.
The investigators concluded Hertzberg made her uncomfortable but couldn't find any evidence supporting that he continued to hug her after she asked him to stop.
Hertzberg said the allegations against him were exploited by opponents as he proposed overhauling California's money bail system for offenders awaiting trial. He also said the Legislature should do a better job of keeping harassment complaints confidential during investigations.