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Sexual harassment lawsuit against California Treasurer Fiona Ma by employee she fired can go to trial, judge says

SAN FRANCISCO– A civil lawsuit filed against California Treasurer Fiona Ma by a former high-ranking employee who alleges Ma made sexual advances toward her before firing her can proceed to trial, a judge ruled Thursday.

Judith Blackwell, former head of California’s tax credit allocation committee, alleged sexual harassment, racial discrimination and wrongful termination in the lawsuit filed in July 2021, six months after her firing. Ma said the allegations were baseless and filed a motion to dismiss the case.

The lawsuit alleged that Ma often rented hotel rooms and a house in Sacramento so staff could stay there after working late. Blackwell said that while she shared rooms, Ma called her into her room several times, exposed her bare buttocks and climbed into Blackwell’s bed with her at least once.

Ma’s motion to dismiss the case said the incidents were not sexual in nature but rather typical of what happens when people share a living space.

In his ruling, first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Christopher Krueger rejected Blackwell’s claims of racial discrimination and wrongful termination. Krueger said the state treasurer’s office presented evidence that Blackwell, who is African American, was fired because of his job performance.

But the judge said Blackwell’s allegations, if believed by a jury, could establish that Ma sexually harassed her.

Ma’s spokesman, Steve Maviglio, said Friday that his office was “pleased that a number of allegations were dismissed and that the treasurer could have her day in court.”

“Allegations from a disgruntled employee are baseless and we hope they are proven false,” he added.

Blackwell suffered a stroke in September 2020 which left her unemployed for two months. When she returned, she was given additional tasks that often kept her working late, according to Blackwell’s lawsuit.

Ma, a Democrat, served on San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors and was elected state treasurer in 2018. The treasurer manages the state’s investments, sits on the board of trustees of its pension funds and oversees programs that provide tax credits for affordable housing and public works financing. projects.

Ma was also previously elected to the Board of Equalization and the State Assembly. She said she plans to run for lieutenant governor in 2026.


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