Former Huizar aides agree to $200,000 deal to end lawsuits, lawyer says
Two former aides to Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar have agreed to settle their discrimination lawsuits against the city for a combined $200,000, their attorney said this week.
Under the proposed settlement, the city will pay former Huizar aide Mayra Alvarez $150,000 to end her case, which alleged she was the victim of discrimination and other forms of misconduct, said Terrence Jones, the lawyer for Alvarez. Pauline Medina, another former staffer who lodged similar claims, is on track to receive $50,000, he said.
The city’s claims board met Thursday in closed session to consider the proposed settlement in the Alvarez case, which will proceed to the City Council for approval. Jones said he did not believe the Medina settlement has to go to the board. The settlements would also resolve claims against Huizar in his “personal capacity,” the attorney said.
The city has not publicly announced a deal. Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for City Atty. Mike Feuer, said Thursday that “the details regarding settlements are confidential until approved by council, and if required approved by the court.”
Alvarez and Medina filed their lawsuits in October 2018, accusing their former boss of punishing them for complaining about what they described as improper and potentially unlawful misconduct by Huizar, including assigning staffers to plan his wife’s City Council bid during city time.
Both also said they had voiced concerns about the councilman having an affair with an aide, which Huizar denied.
Those allegations were quickly overshadowed by the raid of Huizar’s home and offices by FBI agents. Since then, prosecutors have filed court documents that portray the councilman, who took office in 2005, as the leader of a criminal enterprise that relied on bribes and other illegal acts.
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Council President Nury Martinez called on Councilman Jose Huizar to resign amid an ongoing federal investigation into a City Hall “pay-to-play” scandal. Huizar has not been charged.
Huizar’s lawyer in the federal pay-to-play investigation has repeatedly declined to answer questions about it. But Linda Savitt, the councilman’s attorney in the lawsuits involving the former staffers, said many of the claims made by Alvarez and Medina have already been voluntarily dismissed, including those dealing with Huizar’s wife’s political campaign and the allegations about an affair. (Savitt has represented The Times in unrelated litigation.)
Asked about the potential settlement, Savitt said: “I was not part of those negotiations. I filed a motion to have Councilman Huizar exonerated.”
Huizar has previously described the allegations in the two lawsuits as false and part of a coordinated political attack against Richelle Huizar,his wife. Richelle Huizar launched and then abandoned a campaign for her husband’s seat in 2018.
Over the last three years, Jones has represented four of Huizar’s former staffers in court. Three have sued the city and the councilman while the fourth, former Huizar special assistant George Esparza, has agreed to plead guilty in the federal corruption investigation.
Esparza, a former aide to Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles), admitted in his plea agreement that he accepted bribes while working for the councilman.
The city still has not reached an agreement with former Huizar aide Jesse Leon, who sued the city this year alleging he faced retaliation from the councilman for discussing his suspicions about bribes with federal investigators.
Last year, Huizar called Leon’s allegations “absolutely false” and said the aide had engaged in a conflict of interest while working in the office. The city’s lawyers concluded that Leon had attempted to secure a cannabis license while also serving as Huizar’s policy advisor on cannabis regulations, the councilman said.
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