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Probe of alleged sexual harassment by L.A. councilman completed

Jose HuizarLaws and LegislationLos Angeles City CouncilPoliticsCrime, Law and JusticeBusiness Enterprises

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.

Council members have scheduled a possible closed-door meeting Friday to discuss the report, which was produced by Batza & Associates, an investigative firm that specializes in workplace matters. The firm's findings will not be publicly released because Huizar is a city employee and employee matters are considered confidential, said Raelynn Napper, equal employment opportunity division manager for the city's Personnel Department.

The firm looked into claims made by former Huizar deputy chief of staff Francine Godoy, who filed a lawsuit last year alleging that she faced discrimination and retaliation after she declined to provide "sexual favors." She accused Huizar of sending her home, cutting her work assignments and sabotaging her run for the Los Angeles Community College District.

Huizar described Godoy's assertions as "malicious and false," saying he had 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, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Robert Alaniz, who has been handling communications for Huizar on the case, said Huizar learned of the report's completion but as of Thursday morning had not seen it.

If the investigative 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.

A trial in the Huizar case is set for November.

Godoy filed an initial complaint against Huizar last summer, prompting Wesson to convene the Special Committee on Investigative Oversight, a five-member panel assigned to look into discrimination allegations against the city's elected officials.

Weeks later, Wesson headlined the first fundraiser of Huizar's reelection campaign. During that event, Wesson described Huizar as his best friend on the council. Godoy's attorney, Michael Eisenberg, said soon afterward that those statements had "fatally tainted" the city's handling of its investigation.

A Wesson spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday. The special committee initiated an investigation, meeting five times between September and March. In an April 8 memo, Committee chairwoman Christine Littleton described the Batza investigation as "thorough" but did not elaborate.

The council will consider Friday whether to have taxpayers cover the costs of the law firm Huizar hired for his defense, Walsh & Associates. Walsh started working for Huizar in August and has produced $41,000 in legal bills so far, according to a report prepared this week by City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana.

City Atty. Mike Feuer cannot represent both the city and Huizar in the Godoy case, since 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.

If the council votes to retain Walsh & Associates, the initial contract would allow payments of up to $200,000, Santana's memo said.

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Twitter: twitter.com/davidzahniser

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Jose HuizarLaws and LegislationLos Angeles City CouncilPoliticsCrime, Law and JusticeBusiness Enterprises
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