California is experiencing a watershed moment.
Women all over the state are standing up to sexual harassment that plagues the work place.
It started with women publicly speaking about the sexual misconduct of producer Harvey Weinstein. As Hollywood took a hard look at their treatment of women over the last 75 years, women in Sacramento were saying, “me too.”
Hundreds of Sacramento lobbyists, lawmakers and staffers signed a letter demanding an end to the mistreatment of women in politics. The protest and letter has evolved into a “We Said Enough” campaign.
And how has Tulare County responded to this historic moment?
By being home to the very first politician accused of sexual assault since the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke.
On October 19 a story circulated online that Assemblyman Devon Mathis committed sexual assault on one of his young female staffers in April of 2016 after a night of heavy partying.
Of course he is innocent until proven guilty and there is speculation over whether the accusations are true.
Joseph Turner, who broke the story in his blog American Children First, is an ultra conservative determined to unseat the eight Republican legislators, including Mr. Mathis, who voted for the cap and trade bill. He calls them the “Cap and Traitors.”
In addition, former staff has said Mr. Mathis did not display this kind of behavior when they worked for him.
Why hasn’t Mr. Mathis given his side of the story?
Police can’t discuss cases under investigation, but the subjects of those investigations can talk to whomever they want — whenever they want.
Did He Do It?
It almost does not matter.
For the first few months of Mr. Mathis’ tenure in 2015 it was smooth sailing as he deftly recruited Democrat, Republican and Tea Party support.
Yet, in the ensuing years, he has managed to alienate all of them and generate some pretty negative press. Some highlights include Mr. Mathis’ receiving thousands of dollars from Health Care Conglomerate Association (HCCA) and then doing nothing to save the Tulare hospital from HCCA’s mismanagement.
Ironically, Mr. Mathis’ biggest defender concerning the hospital has been Tulare Mayor Carlton Jones, another recipient of HCCA money. Mr. Jones also did nothing to save the hospital, saying that it wasn’t any concern of the city’s.
Mr. Mathis allegedly bragged about saving Southern Inyo’s hospital with one phone call. He allegedly called HCCA CEO Dr. Benny Benzeevi, which resulted in HCCA’s taking over soon after. Twenty months later, Southern Inyo hospital is suing HCCA to get out of its contract.
Others stories include: the leaked email instructing staff to make appointments for Mr. Mathis only with donors when possible. Mr. Mathis’ funneling campaign donations to Chief of Staff Sean Doherty’s consulting company and hiring his and Mr. Doherty’s relatives. Mr. Mathis’ receiving a Fair Political Practices Commission warning because he neglected to disclose his one and only asset on his campaign finance form.
Most revealing is Mr. Mathis’ lack of loyalty toward his staff and their lack of loyalty towards hm. In three years, his small office has lost or fired 9 or 10 staffers.
The final straw with his Republican base was when Mr. Mathis told his constituents that he would not vote for Cap and Trade or the cell phone tower legislation–then turned around and voted for both bills.
A Drinking Problem
So the point isn’t whether Mr. Mathis committed a sexual assault. The point is his record in Sacramento and his personal life decisions that put him in the position of being accused in the first place.
And his personal life is a bit of a mess.
He is a twice married father of five young children and two step children. I admire anyone who has a big family, but what is a married father of seven doing out carousing late at night and allegedly getting stoned?
Why is Tulare County’s representative bombed on a Wednesday night?
There are rumors from a Sacramento insider that Mr. Mathis’ drinking starts in the afternoon at the restaurant patio across from the capitol.
Staffers allegedly try to water his drinks down or throw them away when he is not looking.
According to another blog, The Right On Daily, written by Aaron F Park, “What I know of Devon Mathis’ situation is that he liked to go out drinking with his staff, a lot. When I have personally seen Mathis at CA GOP Conventions, he has been intoxicated. ……. why the hell was an Assembly member drinking with his staff? Why was Devon Mathis regularly seen at the house of Justin Turner near Sacramento State? Why did I hear about this pattern from a ton of people?”
According to divorce court documents from his first wife, Amber,
“In December of 2011 the Petitioner (Devon Mathis) and I were living in Fresno. We had enrolled our son in school together in Fresno. When the Petitioner’s attitude began to break down, his partying escalated, he was drunk around the children, he refused to watch the children when I was working, and he even tried to rape me. It was obvious that I could no longer live with him.”
Amber and their children moved to Porterville.
An Anger Management Problem
According to divorce records Amber said, “Over the past several years there have been 4 reports to the CPS (Child Protective Service) against the Petitioner (Mr. Mathis) regarding abuse to the children.”
The CPS was called over allegations of Mr. Mathis abusing his children after losing his temper, such as throwing things at them or knocking them over. He has also allegedly used harsh corporal punishment since his oldest was only two months old. In another alleged incident he spanked his middle child so hard that he left bruises over his buttocks.
Amber filed a police report when she saw the bruises on her son and the case was handed over to the Tulare County DA’s office.
On another occasion, the police were called to Mr. Mathis’ home when he was living in Porterville. Mr. Mathis allegedly left his oldest son, who has autism, outside in the front yard alone. The boy was found about two miles away on the highway.
According to his neighbors and court records, the Mathises lost custody of his second wife’s oldest son because Mr. Mathis abused him.
Amber stated, “It is obvious Mr. Mathis has a serious problem with anger and cannot control his temper with our children. There is also an order protecting his current wife’s son from Mr. Mathis with a no contact order.”
The son in question now lives with his father in a county north of Sacramento.
Rigging the System
What really frosts my cake is that it appears he used the National Guard in 2008 to his financial advantage.
In March of 2008 according to Amber, “I told Devon that if he wanted our marriage to work out that he should not sign another six-year contract. Devon ignored my request and signed the contract. He told me that if they did try to deploy him, he would file for a hardship.”
In Mr. Mathis declaration to the court he confirmed her statement.
“I had decided not to go active duty because of how hard all this had been on our relationship, but Amber and I did decide for me to sign another six-year contract with the National Guard reserves. This way I could still build up retirement rather than throwing away the past seven years of career I had with the National Guard. We planned to file for a hardship if ever they wanted to have me deploy again so I would not have to go.”
I’m no expert on the army, but is a reservist supposed to sign a six-year contract with the National Guard when that person has no intention of serving if deployed?
Mr. Mathis signed the contract with the Army National Guard in March of 2008.
Amber was diagnosed as bi-polar in November of 2007, which was going to be used as the reason for his family’s “hardship.”
Did Mr. Mathis disclose her condition to the National Guard or keep it in his back pocket as a “get-out-of service-free” card?
Mr. Mathis wrapped himself in the American flag and built his entire campaign platform around his status as a veteran.
Though he claims to the contrary, he has accomplished precious little in Sacramento and had to use his veteran status again to be elected in 2016.
Losing His Assembly Seat is the Least of Mr. Mathis’ Problems
A lawyer pointed out that we are missing the big picture.
“The least of his problems is losing an election. Mr. Mathis might be going to jail.” He also may have to register as a sexual offender after he gets out of prison.
On October 20 Sacramento police opened an investigation into the following:
According to Turner’s blog, “At some point ‘Victim A’ gets very sick and the other female takes her to a guest bedroom to rest. She subsequently passes out.
“Later, Assemblyman Mathis excuses himself to use the restroom. The inordinate length of his absence prompts the female to check in on him. Unable to locate him she proceeds to then check in on the ‘Victim A’ whereby she discovers Mathis digitally penetrating her while she was unconscious.”
According to Penal Code 289, “Any person who commits an act of sexual penetration when the victim is prevented from resisting by any intoxicating or anesthetic substance, or any controlled substance, and this condition was known, or reasonably should have been known by the accused, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a period of three, six, or eight years.”
What Say You, Tulare County?
Mr. Mathis’ motus operandi is to conduct a smear campaign against anyone who reports negatively on him.
The Valley Voice has reported on Mr. Mathis’ forums, town halls and major press conferences.
But when we print something critical he calls on a handful of relatives and loyal followers to fill the comment section using fake names to make his supporters to seem more legion than they really are.
Even former Chief of Staff Sean Doherty joined in the comment section using false names to criticize the paper.
But this is bigger than an incumbent who isn’t going to win the next election, or even make it through the primary.
This is about an incumbent who needs to know when it is time to step aside.
He is an embarrassment to the entire Republican Party.
Aaron Park said in his blog, “Mathis? Everyone knows he is dead on his feet – when will Republican Leadership break the news to him that he needs to pack it in?”
I’ll be curious to see what Mr. Mathis’ supporters have to say now.
Maybe instead it’s time that the people of the 26th Assembly District to have their say –