Lawyer in L.A. sexual harassment case seeks Garcetti aide’s private Facebook posts
An attorney for the police officer who alleged he was sexually harassed by a former aide to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti called Thursday on the city’s lawyers to preserve messages from a private Facebook group involving the mayor’s staff.
After The Times reported that Garcetti chief of staff Ana Guerrero posted sexual innuendo and disparaging messages about city workers in a private Facebook group, attorney Gregory W. Smith sent a letter asking for people in the mayor’s circle to retain messages, photographs, emojis and “likes” from that group.
Smith is representing Matthew Garza, who filed a lawsuit last year alleging he was sexually harassed by Rick Jacobs, another Garcetti aide, over a period of years. In his letter, Smith said he wants to ensure the contents of the Facebook group, called Solid Gold, are not destroyed.
Smith said he wants to know specifically what was said in the group about Jacobs’ behavior and what Garcetti knew about it.
Spokesmen for Garcetti and for City Atty. Mike Feuer declined comment. Jacobs, in a deposition, previously denied harassing anyone but conceded he may have hugged Garza and told sexual jokes in front of the security detail.
The Times reported Thursday that Guerrero made a sexually suggestive comment in the Solid Gold Facebook group about a shirtless photo of Vince Bertoni, the city’s Director of Planning. In a post that referenced Bertoni’s hiring, Guerrero said she and another staffer had searched “LONG and HARD for someone that might be easy on the eye.”
Guerrero wrote a post that appeared to mock a council staffer’s weight, according to messages reviewed by The Times. She posted a vomit emoji, and an image of a creature throwing up, in response to a photo of City Controller Ron Galperin and other public officials at a Super Bowl party.
Asked about those posts, Guerrero expressed remorse, saying the messages were jokes intended for a small group of friends. “I deeply regret engaging in this type of humor, even with close friends,” she said in a statement.
Garcetti chief of staff Ana Guerrero said she regrets posting certain private Facebook messages, saying they “were never meant to be seen” outside her small group of friends.
Several Garcetti staffers and appointees took part in the invitation-only messaging group. But Solid Gold was not the only forum on Facebook for Garcetti staffers.
Henry Casas, who worked for Garcetti from 2013-18, was asked during a deposition in the Garza case about any private Facebook groups involving Garcetti aides. He testified that one, known as Chase Buckingham, had about 30 participants — both junior and senior staffers.
Solid Gold was more exclusive, he said, featuring Guerrero and about a dozen people, including Heather Repenning — now a Garcetti appointee at the Metropolitan Water District — and Cecilia Cabello, a onetime Garcetti aide. Cabello received a $24,000 contract with the mayor’s office last year to coordinate the response to COVID-19 by philanthropies and businesses.
“Solid Gold was the more like tighter group,” Casas testified.
Cabello declined comment when reached by phone. Repenning did not respond to multiple messages.
The Solid Gold group sometimes traded in suggestive messages, The Times found after reviewing selected posts.
When one of the group’s members uploaded the shirtless photo of Bertoni, Repenning initially responded with the message “Hmmm.”
Joseph Arroyo, who belonged to the Facebook group but did not work for the mayor, followed with a single-word post that said “Wood.” He then replied: “I meant WOOF but both work.”
Guerrero then weighed in herself, posting the message about Bertoni being “easy on the eye.”
Arroyo did not respond to calls from The Times seeking comment.
Guerrero, during her deposition in the Garza case, said she did not remember if Jacobs was discussed in either Solid Gold or the Chase Buckingham Facebook group.
Casas, however, testified that Jacobs was mentioned in at least one of them.
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