Albuquerque City Councilor opens up after coming forward with sexual harassment claim | KOB 4

Albuquerque City Councilor opens up after coming forward with sexual harassment claim

Joy Wang
Updated: January 16, 2021 10:50 AM
Created: January 15, 2021 10:23 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- Albuquerque City Councilor Lan Sena has accused state Rep. Abbass Akhil of sexual harassment. 

Sena was Akhil's campaign treasurer in 2019, following a 10-year battle with cancer. 

"I was misdiagnosed for about a year before a final diagnosis of stage four Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of blood cancer, back in 2011," Sena said. And ever since I’ve been going through treatments on and off."

Sena, an advocate for worker's rights and access to healthcare, said she believed in Akhil.

"I really saw that he could create change, not just as a person but he was a mentor of mine, so I agreed, and he did become my boss," Sena said. 

Sena said the relationship changed in May 2019, when she “agreed to meet at the campaign headquarters,” which was Akhil’s home.

Sena said Akhil first gave her a hug that she described as uncomfortably close. She said he then brushed her hair from her forehead, and told her he did not want to lose her.

Sena was married at the time of the alleged incident, and said her family was close with Akhil's.

Sena's statement goes on to say the Akhil showed her some work done in his home but eventually hugged her again, kissed her forehead, and asked if she wanted to sit.

She claims their legs were touching, and he placed his hand on her left side and kissed her right cheek-- before she got up to leave.

"What I was worried most was, of course, my own safety," she said.

Sena said Akhil asked her to stay, repeatedly telling her he liked her— and apologizing multiple times.

Sena said Akhil asked her not to disappear as she walked to her car.

"He was in a position of power, and he abused that power by first committing the sexual abuse against me, but also by using that same power to keep me silent," Sena said.

Sena stopped working as Akhil's treasurer after the alleged incident. 

But in July the two came to an agreement. 

"The agreement would be that we would move forward, alongside one another to really champion in bringing light to the sexual abuse that women and survivors go through, but also highlighting the policies that need to be changed, but subsequently after that, it was no longer a priority of Representative Akhil towards my healing and towards justice," Sena said. 

"After our second session. He sought legal counsel. It really closed the door," Sena added.

"He did not want to impede the process. What he wanted to do was seek counsel which was his constitutional right," said Akhil's attorney Ahmad Assed. 

Assed claims his client was coming from a point of sympathy during the incident in question— after a personal conversation with Sena.

"He's embarrassed of the kiss on the forehead," Assed said. "And it wasn't sexual in nature. And when he noticed that it was uncomfortable for her. He backed away and apologized immediately. He never pursued any of these things that are described in the manner that are described by Mrs. Sena.

Assed claims Akhil was forced into signing paperwork that said he agreed to Sena's statements.

"He does everything, including not run for office, including attempting to counseling and meeting, and doing everything that was asked of them, and instead of recognizing that he's made efforts, we want to destroy him more," Assed said. "What else is there? What else is there for him to do?"

In December, Sena filed a complaint with the state Ethics Commission but was notified that it will likely be dismissed because of a technicality.

The letter says the commission "lacks jurisdiction for any conduct that occurred before July 1, 2019.”

"No one asked for proof of my cancer. No one asked the severity of the cancer. When we talk about, really, the sickness of sexual abuse, it's treated profoundly different," Sena said. "No one is intimidated to stay quiet about their disease. But for this, it's been profoundly different to navigate. And for me, even going through some of the most arduous battles through my cancer. This has been profoundly more challenging.

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