The panel charged with looking into sexual harassment claims against Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar has completed its work and forwarded its findings to Council President Herb Wesson.
News that the probe is finished comes as the City Council on Friday is scheduled to consider a contract authorizing up to $200,000 in payments to the law firm representing Huizar in a lawsuit filed by his accuser, former Deputy Chief of Staff Francine Godoy.
The report, which council members are expected to consider behind closed doors, was prepared by Batza & Associates, an investigative firm that specializes in workplace matters. Its contents won't be available to the public because Huizar is a city employee and employee matters are considered confidential, said Raelynn Napper, a manager in the city's Personnel Department.
Godoy sued Huizar and the city last year alleging she faced discrimination and retaliation after she declined to provide "sexual favors." Huizar called Godoy's assertions "malicious and false," saying he and Godoy had a consensual extramarital affair. While working for Huizar, Godoy's yearly salary jumped from about $47,000 to more than $132,000 from 2006 to 2013.
Godoy's lawyer, Michael Eisenberg, described the city's review of the allegations as "a joke," saying investigators should have withheld judgment until his client gave her deposition in the case. Robert Alaniz, who has been handling communications for Huizar on the harassment case, said Thursday the councilman was aware the report had been completed but hadn't seen it.
If the report clears Huizar, the council could vote to accept it, said Napper, the personnel official. If it finds Huizar engaged in wrongdoing, lawmakers could vote to censure him, she said. Beyond that, "there's not a whole lot the council could do," she added.
Godoy filed an initial complaint against Huizar last summer, prompting Wesson to convene the Special Committee on Investigative Oversight, a five-member panel charged with looking into discrimination allegations against city elected officials.
Wesson later headlined Huizar's first reelection campaign fundraiser, where he described the Eastside lawmaker as his best friend on the council. Eisenberg has said those statements "fatally tainted" the city's investigation. Wesson, who distributed the confidential Huizar report to his colleagues Thursday, said in a prepared statement that he had no role in picking the members of the committee or the investigative firm.
The council also will consider a possible contract with Huizar's law firm, Walsh & Associates. The firm began working for Huizar in August and has produced $41,000 in legal bills so far, according to a report by City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana.
City Atty. Mike Feuer cannot represent both the city and Huizar in the Godoy case, because their interests may diverge. Normally, when such a conflict exists, city officials turn to a pool of law firms already on hand to represent the employee separately.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times