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L.A. to pay $75,000 to end harassment lawsuit by ex-aide to Englander

Trials and ArbitrationSexual MisconductMitchell EnglanderJose HuizarHerb WessonMike FeuerEric Garcetti
L.A. officials to pay $75,000 to settle harassment case filed by aide to Councilman Mitchell Englander
Payment to Englander aide comes as L.A. faces separate harassment case involving staffer to Councilman Huizar

Los Angeles has agreed to pay $75,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a former aide to City Councilman Mitchell Englander who claimed she was repeatedly subjected to sexual comments and inappropriate jokes while working in his office, officials said Tuesday.

The city's Claims Board voted 3 to 0 Monday to make the payment to Melody Jaramillo, a field deputy in Englander's office from February 2012 to April 2013.

Jaramillo had alleged in her lawsuit that Englander chief of staff John Lee repeatedly engaged in harassment and discrimination -- and that nothing was done when she complained. She also accused the councilman of making sexually inappropriate remarks when she expressed interest in working on public safety issues.

Englander, she said, questioned whether she wanted the post so that “she could walk into the fire stations and be naked in front of the male firefighters.”

Englander issued a statement saying the claims board "made a judgment call" to make the payment rather than continue "fighting these frivolous allegations" in court. "Simply litigating the case, even in the event of defeating it, would likely cost more out of pocket," he said.

"I have always maintained the position that these allegations were patently false," Englander added.

Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for City Atty. Mike Feuer, said the woman's case against Lee was dismissed earlier this month without payment. The city was also a defendant and Monday's payment will settle the remainder of the case, he said.

A lawyer for Jaramillo did not respond to requests for comment from The Times.

Because the legal payout in the Jaramillo case did not exceed $100,000, it will not require a City Council vote, Wilcox said.

The settlement comes as city lawyers contend with another sexual harassment case involving Councilman Jose Huizar. In that case, a high-level aide alleged she faced retaliation after she refused to provide Huizar sexual favors. He called that allegation false and trial is set for November.

Jaramillo filed her lawsuit last year, identifying herself at the time as an anonymous Jane Doe. A judge later ruled she must use her true name in the legal proceedings.

In her complaint, she said she had suffered emotionally and physically as a result of her time in Englander's office -- and would continue to do so "for a period in the future."

Jaramillo also said she quit her post after concluding that "harassing conduct" was ingrained in Englander's office.

Englander, first elected in 2011, represents the northwest San Fernando Valley.

The Claims Board is made up of three people: Mayor Eric Garcetti or a representative; Council President Herb Wesson or a representative; and Feuer or a representative.

Follow @DavidZahniser for what's happening at Los Angeles City Hall

 

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Trials and ArbitrationSexual MisconductMitchell EnglanderJose HuizarHerb WessonMike FeuerEric Garcetti
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