Steve Fox, the 36th Assembly District race challenger and former representative, alleges that he was collateral damage in two lawsuits against him alleging abuse from his time in the Assembly.
In October 2017, the California Assembly agreed to pay $100,000 to a former legislative staff member to settle a claim of harassment, discrimination and retaliation against Fox, who served from 2012 to 2014. In 2015, they also paid $110,000 to a former legal employee under Fox, according to the lawsuit documents.
The staff member, Nancy Kathleen Finnigan, worked as Fox’s legislative director for about five months in 2013. She alleged in a 2014 lawsuit that she was fired for complaining to the Assembly that Fox had made her perform personal tasks irrelevant to her duties as his legislative director, and inappropriate behavior including exposing himself to her at his apartment, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit was against Fox’s then-chief of staff, Ann Turtle, who Finnigan alleged was displaying “violent and intimidating behavior,” the Assembly; and the Assembly’s deputy administrative officer Lynda Roper, according to the documents.
“On multiple occasions in 2013, (Finnegan) reported to her supervisor (Ann Turtle) that Fox was violating state laws and regulations prohibiting the personal use of state resources when he had her and other staff members perform personal tasks and functions,” the lawsuit read.
The second lawsuit was by Kristina Zahn, who worked for Fox in his Lancaster law office and then his Assembly district office in Palmdale. Zahn sued Fox, alleging he failed to pay her overtime and had her perform unpaid campaign work when she worked for his law office, and had her continue to work without pay in his law office even after she landed an Assembly job.
In response, Fox said Friday that both lawsuits were election stunts.
“The Finnegan lawsuit, which, by the way, she had been let go from other offices — that was against three people, not me,” he said. “We caught her forging my signature on things, so the Assembly who hired her, caught her and fired her. She sued my chief of staff who she was actually mad at, and she put me in the loop because I was the Assemblyman she was under.
“I was up for re-election at the time (in 2014), so she asked for money,” he said. “She was more busy going after other females than me, but I got all the bad publicity.”
Fox said Zahn’s lawsuit was also irrelevant to his performance as a lawmaker.
“Also, Finnegan was a Democrat and Zahn was a Republican,” Fox said. “I hired Zahn regardless of party. No allegations of wrongdoing are true. It’s all lies because I’m up for re-election.”
Matt Rexroad, a campaign consultant for incumbent Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, said the current assemblyman is a “professional through and through.”
“Tom Lackey is one of the nicest people you’ll ever met,” he said. “We’re sorry that those women had to endure that sort of treatment. Nobody to my knowledge has ever accused Tom Lackey of anything close to what Mr. Fox has done twice, and has cost taxpayers six figures each time.
“Our campaign has been about Lackey and that he’s been recognized for his accomplishments legislatively,” Rexroad said. “I think people consider him to be a productive member of the Assembly.”
Fox said that Lackey was “horrible,” and had done less than him legislatively while in office.
“I’ve beat two Democratic candidates in each primary in each election against him,” he said. “I’m too conservative for the Democratic party, because I was a Republican for 30 years, so my votes reflect whatever the district wanted me to vote. But realize, I got a lot done because it’s a Democratic Legislature, and Tom Lackey has not.
“What you see from his votes are they are not empathetic toward people,” he said. “None of my votes cost the public one penny, and I brought us millions of dollars for my work on aerospace.”
Fox’s Assembly Bill 2389, the Aerospace Tax Credit bill, passed into law in July 2014 and gave $420 million in tax breaks over 15 years for the aerospace industry.
Lackey’s representative offered a different take on the legislation.
In response to Fox’s claim, Rexroad said: “This legislation was carried more by (then-state Sen.) Steve Knight, which Mr. Fox took over at the last minute even though he had nothing to do with it. It’s comical for Mr. Fox to suggest he was more productive than Tom Lackey.”