Top Garcetti aide posted sexual innuendo, disparaging messages about city employees
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s top aide posted sexual innuendo and disparaging comments about city employees and politicians on a private Facebook group that included other mayoral staff and supporters, according to posts reviewed by The Times.
On the Facebook group Solid Gold, Garcetti chief of staff Ana Guerrero and other members posted insults about a former council aide and mocking emojis about a gathering of city and state officials.
Guerrero also made a suggestive comment in the Facebook group about Vince Bertoni, who was hired by Garcetti in 2016 as the city’s new Director of Planning. She commented on a photo which showed the new planning director with family members at the beach, holding a surfboard and wearing a wetsuit pulled down to his waist.
“Kelli and I looked LONG and HARD for someone that might be easy on the eye,” Guerrero wrote in the comments under the post.
Guerrero appeared to be referring to Kelli Bernard, who formerly worked as Garcetti’s Deputy Mayor of Economic Development and helped hire Bertoni. Bernard could not immediately be reached for comment.
After The Times inquired with the mayor’s office about her Facebook messages, Guerrero issued a statement expressing remorse.
“These years-old posts were jokes between me and a small group of close friends, and they were never meant to be seen outside that context,” she said. “I deeply regret engaging in this type of humor, even with close friends. It’s always been one of my top priorities to create a safe, supportive work environment here that inspires people to serve this city with commitment and compassion, and that’s what I will continue to do.”
Revelations about Guerrero’s comment on Bertoni’s looks come as the city is dealing with a sexual harassment lawsuit filed over another Garcetti aide, former deputy chief of staff Rick Jacobs. Those allegations have generated much attention amid reports that Garcetti is expected to be nominated by the Biden administration to become the U.S. ambassador to India.
The private Facebook group included several people in Garcetti’s orbit, including staffers, appointees and supporters. Friends of Guerrero were also included in the invite-only group.
Garcetti was not a member of the Solid Gold group, mayoral spokesman Alex Comisar said Wednesday. As chief of staff, Guerrero was the highest ranking person in the mayor’s office to participate in it.
Yeghig Keshishian, spokesman for the Department of City Planning, said Bertoni was unaware of Guerrero’s Facebook group or their messages about him.
The photo of Bertoni that appeared in the Solid Gold Facebook group was taken in 2010 at a beachfront memorial ceremony to honor Bertoni’s husband’s grandfather. Bertoni and several members of his family did a “paddle out” to remember the grandfather, an avid surfer, Keshishian said in an email.
“While we have not heard of or seen the alleged comments on the post, we are confident that the mayor and his team based their hiring decision upon Vince’s extensive experience of leading several prominent Los Angeles area municipalities in urban planning,” he said.
Guerrero’s posts also focused on other government officials.
One message from Guerrero, which was reviewed by The Times, was a response to a photo of a onetime aide to City Councilman Mike Bonin. In the photo, taken from his own Facebook page and reposted on Solid Gold, the aide is shirtless in front of a mirror.
“Is he preggers?” Guerrero wrote.
The former Bonin aide declined to comment.
Guerrero also posted a response to a photo of City Controller Ron Galperin, County Assessor Jeffrey Prang and several others watching the Super Bowl on TV in 2016. The group also included Eric Bauman, former Chair of the California Democratic Party, and former Assembly Speaker John Perez.
Under the image, Guerrero posted an emoji of a beast throwing up. Galperin declined to weigh in on the emoji.
Prang said that in his experiences with Guerrero, he found her to be “bright and professional.” But he also argued that there is a lesson to be learned from the Facebook posts.
“The one thing all of us in the political world have to learn is that what you do in private can be as important as what you do in public,” he said.
Guerrero, a former community organizer and daughter of migrant farmworkers, has spent two decades with Garcetti, working for him when he was on the City Council and becoming his chief of staff after he was elected mayor in 2013.
The Solid Gold Facebook group has come up repeatedly in depositions in the case filed by Matthew Garza, the LAPD officer suing the city alleging another Garcetti aide sexually harassed him. Jacobs had denied the allegations.
During her deposition testimony, Guerrero testified that she did not remember if Jacobs was discussed among Solid Gold members.
However, in a separate deposition, former Garcetti aide Henry Casas said Guerrero did make reference to Jacobs in a Facebook group, according to a transcript reviewed by The Times.
Garza, a former member of Garcetti’s security detail, filed a lawsuit last summer alleging that he was sexually harassed by Jacobs over a period spanning several years. Jacobs, in a deposition, has denied harassing anyone but conceded he may have hugged Garza and told sexual jokes in front the security detail.
Three other former city employees told The Times that Jacobs’ bullying and sexually aggressive actions were widely known inside the mayor’s office, and that discussions about the advisor’s misbehavior were common in the office’s top echelons.
Since the allegations against Jacobs first arose during the summer, Garcetti has repeatedly said he never witnessed the sexual harassment alleged by Garza.
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