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L.A. Councilman Jose Huizar is sued by former aide for harassment

Crime, Law and JusticeLaws and LegislationSexual MisconductJustice SystemJose HuizarLos Angeles International Airport

A woman who spent seven years as an aide to Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar filed a lawsuit Thursday claiming the lawmaker waged a "campaign of retaliation" against her after she turned down specific requests for "sexual favors."

Francine Godoy, 34, said in her lawsuit Huizar suggested last year that she run for a seat on the Los Angeles Community College District board. After she agreed to do so, Huizar tied his support for her campaign to sexual activities, according to the lawsuit.

"On or about October, 8, 2012, after [Godoy] arrived at Huizar's office at City Hall, Huizar told [her] that if she wanted his continued support in her campaign ... she would have to have sex with him." Godoy said in her lawsuit that she refused his advances.

Huizar spokesman Rick Coca did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But earlier this year, the councilman released a statement saying he "strongly and emphatically denied" allegations made by Godoy against him in a related discrimination complaint.

Godoy, who was Huizar's deputy chief of staff until April, said in her lawsuit the councilman "explicitly conditioned" her employment benefits on sexual favors.  At one point last November, Huizar contacted her on his cellphone and told her he was "parked down the street from her home," the lawsuit states.

After she went to the car, Huizar said she would need to be "closer" to him for her to retain his support for community college board, the lawsuit states. Godoy said that after she refused his sexual advances, Huizar told her he planned to "cancel" an endorsement meeting scheduled for the next day.

Huizar, 45, was elected to the council in 2005, representing a district that includes neighborhoods stretching from Boyle Heights to Eagle Rock. Godoy joined his staff a year later, earning about $47,000 annually.

By January of this year, Godoy's salary had jumped to more than $132,000, according to Personnel Department officials. She left Huizar's office in April, taking a job as principal project coordinator in the city's Bureau of Sanitation, with annual pay of nearly $119,000.

In her lawsuit, Godoy said at the start of this year, she was instructed by Huizar to work from home. She alleged Huizar cut back her duties "significantly." "Plaintiff would sit at home much of her time with no work to perform since she was being retaliated against by Huizar due to her refusal to have sex with him," the lawsuit states.

Godoy filed a complaint against Huizar in June with the state's Department of Fair Employment and Housing, saying she experienced harassment, discrimination and retaliation because of her “refusal to engage in sex” while working in his office.

That document, filed to preserve Godoy's right to sue, said the former Huizar staffer was denied a promotion, forced to quit, forced to transfer, asked "impermissible non-job-related questions" and had her ability to run for public office "sabotaged."

The state complaint prompted Council President Heb Wesson to instruct personnel officials to convene a committee to probe the allegations. The five-member Special Committee on Investigative Oversight -- made up of two law professors, two retired judges and a member of the American Arbitration -- began its review last month.

When The Times disclosed Godoy's state complaint, Huizar said he was surprised by the filing and promised to cooperate fully with any investigation.

Godoy is represented by attorney Michael Eisenberg, whose website, Laborlitigators.com, prominently features his client's case against Huizar.

"Eisenberg & Associates represents a former deputy chief of staff in a disgraceful sexual harassment case against Councilman Jose Huizar and the City of Los Angeles. Stay tuned for more developments," the website states.

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Twitter: twitter.com/davidzahniser

david.zahniser@latimes.com

 

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