Los Angeles City Councilman Nate Holden began making romantic overtures from the moment they met, a former receptionist who is suing Holden and the city for sexual harassment and discrimination testified Friday.
Within two months of her employment, plaintiff Marlee M. Beyda said, Holden invited her to his apartment at night, begged her to sit next to him on his leather couch, and then tried to force a kiss.
"I thought Councilman Holden was a very sincere man who was interested in his staff members," Beyda testified when asked what she thought when Holden asked about her boyfriend and her family history, called her at home and invited her over.
Beyda, one of three former employees to file claims of harassment against Holden, said she met the veteran lawmaker when she was a 26-year-old waitress at the Bel Age Hotel and served him drinks during a Valentine's Day party in 1991.
"I was trying to get behind him, because the table next to him was very close. . . . He looked up at me and said, 'Oh, I think I'm in love,' " Beyda said, her voice practically a whisper during about two hours on the witness stand. "He gave me his class ring and he said, 'Oh, you're going to marry me.' "
Beyda said Holden gave her his business card that evening and she later called him, looking for a job. By April, she had been hired as a clerk/typist/receptionist in his district field office. In May, Beyda wrote Holden a note thanking him for the job and saying, "Let me know if there is anything I can do for you." Soon after, Beyda testified, Holden beckoned for her after-hours, suggesting that they meet in a supermarket parking lot near the Marina del Rey apartment where he was staying most nights at the time.
Inside the apartment, they talked--mostly about her, Beyda testified. When she asked about Holden's life, she said, "he changed the subject and said he wanted me to sit next to him.
"I said, 'No, I'm really happy where I'm sitting.' I felt awkward. It didn't make sense," Beyda testified. "The councilman requested several times that I sit next to him. . . . I didn't really want to. He said, 'Don't worry, I'm not going to touch you.' I went over and sat next to him. The councilman tried to kiss me. He tried to kiss me on my lips, he tried to kiss me on my neck. I backed away and said, 'I'm going to go now.' "
Beyda has previously testified that she made about half a dozen visits to Holden's apartment, but she ran out of time on the stand Friday before she could detail those encounters. She is expected to continue testifying Tuesday.
In legal papers, Beyda contends that Holden touched her chest, buttocks, waist and thigh and forced her to touch his penis. Her psychologist has testified that Beyda said Holden once tried to "attempt sexual intercourse" with her, but was thwarted when the receptionist "shouted loudly, 'No!' "
Outside court, Beyda's lawyer, Dan Stormer, said: "She'll discuss in great detail what happened."
Holden, who has steadfastly denied all allegations made against him, declined to comment about Beyda's testimony Friday, saying only, "Let her tell her story and we'll come back and tell ours."