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Wesson draws criticism after praising Huizar at campaign event

Jose HuizarHerb WessonElectionsPoliticsLos Angeles City Council

Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson gave a resounding endorsement of Councilman Jose Huizar this week, telling an audience of lobbyists, business leaders and labor officials that Huizar is his "best friend" on the 15-member council.

“Mr. Huizar is like my brother, my best friend on the council. I trust him with my life, he does the same for me,” said Wesson, headlining Huizar's reelection campaign kickoff Tuesday at Exchange Los Angeles, a downtown nightclub.

Those comments, which were captured on a video later obtained by The Times, sparked criticism from one advocate who questioned whether Wesson will be impartial once it comes time to review the findings of a pending sexual harassment investigation into Huizar.

Three months ago, Wesson instructed city officials to form a special committee to investigate a complaint lodged against Huizar by Francine Godoy, a former Huizar staffer. That five-member panel, known as the Special Committee on Investigative Oversight, is charged with submitting its findings to Wesson and his colleagues, according to personnel officials.

Godoy said in her lawsuit that Huizar punished her for refusing to provide "sexual favors." Huizar called Godoy's allegations false but said he engaged in an extramarital affair with her -- one he considers to be a "huge mistake."

Patricia Bellasalma, president of the California chapter of the National Organization for Women, said Wesson's appearance at the fundraiser -- and his fulsome praise of Huizar -- is “tantamount to picking sides” in the harassment dispute.

“I think it’s highly inappropriate," said Bellasalma. "The allegations are serious. They have to be impartially and thoroughly investigated, and he should respect that process."

Asked on Wednesday about his appearance at the fundraiser, Wesson said he will be impartial regardless of his involvement.

"I will reserve judgment" until the committee's investigation process does "what it’s supposed to," Wesson said. "At the end of that process, that’s when it’s appropriate for everyone to make judgment, not prior to that."

Wesson also said he is "100% behind" Huizar. 

"I was talking about his reelection. I was there to support his reelection and I support him. I keep my word," the council president added.

ALSO:

Councilman Huizar says affair with staffer was "huge mistake"

L.A. Council prepares to ban use of bullhooks on circus elephants

Huizar's supporters say councilman's woes have not shaken their support

Twitter: @davidzahniser

david.zahniser@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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