California Treasurer Fiona Ma to face trial in Sacramento on sexual harassment allegation

A lawsuit against California Treasurer Fiona Ma alleging sexual harassment can go to trial, a judge ruled Thursday.

Judith Blackwell, a former high-ranking employee of Ma’s office, filed the lawsuit in July 2021 in Sacramento Superior Court. In addition to sexual harassment, it claimed wrongful termination and racial discrimination.

The lawsuit alleged that Ma often rented hotel rooms in Sacramento for staff to stay in after working late. Blackwell alleged that while sharing rooms, Ma called her into her bedroom multiple times, exposed her nude rear end, and climbed into Blackwell’s bed with her.

In his ruling, first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Christopher Krueger dismissed Blackwell’s allegations of racial discrimination and wrongful termination. But he said Blackwell’s allegations, if believed by a jury, could establish that Ma sexually harassed her.

Ma also frequently shared hotel rooms with her then-chief of staff Genevieve Jopanda, a Sacramento Bee analysis of expense reports in 2021 found. That was in order to save money, Ma said at the time.

Ma has denied the allegations and filed a motion to dismiss Blackwell’s case. Her spokesman, Steve Maviglio, told the Associated Press Friday that her office is “pleased that a number of the allegations were thrown out and that the treasurer can have her day in court.”

“The allegations are meritless by a disgruntled employee, and we look forward to having them proven false,” Maviglio said.

A settlement conference is scheduled for Wednesday, according to court records.

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

Ma was also previously elected to the state Assembly. She has said she plans to run for lieutenant governor in 2026.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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