As Garcetti waits, senators review allegations in harassment lawsuit involving key aide
More than four months after Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was announced as President Biden’s pick to become U.S. ambassador to India, the mayor is still waiting for a hearing and vote before a key Senate committee that will consider his nomination.
Garcetti, who traveled again to Washington this week, needs to have a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Other Biden nominees have appeared before the panel — a sign that Democrats have prioritized other candidates over the L.A. mayor.
Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a controversial Biden nominee who has faced criticism for his administration’s handling of the police shooting of a teenager, appeared before the committee in October. The panel voted this month to advance his nomination to be ambassador to Japan to the full Senate.
As part of their review of Garcetti, senators are scrutinizing allegations stemming from a sexual harassment lawsuit against the city involving Garcetti’s former advisor. The lawsuit has led to depositions in which former staffers have said it was common knowledge in Garcetti’s office that the advisor acted sexually inappropriately toward male employees.
Juan Pachón, communications director for Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, told The Times that the committee “thoroughly vets every nominee, and is doing so for Mayor Garcetti.”
“We are reviewing these allegations in detail and treating them with the same due diligence as we do for every nominee before our committee,” Pachón said when asked about the lawsuit involving Garcetti’s advisor.
Mayor Eric Garcetti has been forced into a waiting game as Senate Republicans slow the confirmation process for President Biden’s appointees. Garcetti was nominated in July to be U.S. Ambassador to India, but it’s uncertain when his appointment will be heard by the Senate.
Pachón, in his statement to The Times, alluded to Republican efforts to slow the overall confirmation process for Biden’s nominees by holding back appointees. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has employed the practice over his demands that the U.S. impose sanctions over the construction of a Russian pipeline.
“As close to 50 critical national security nominations are obstructed on the Senate floor, and with dozens more currently making their way through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the committee’s ability to vet nominees, convene hearings and schedule votes is unfortunately taking longer than usual,” Pachón said.
Some politicians have publicly expressed support for Garcetti’s confirmation amid the logjam.
“As the son of an ambassador who served in multiple Asia posts, I hope we can clear our U.S. Asia Team promptly,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) wrote in a tweet last month, mentioning Garcetti and other Biden nominees.
Garcetti’s office declined to answer questions about the slow pace of his confirmation. His office also wouldn’t comment when asked if Garcetti had meetings related to his India nomination while in Washington this week. Garcetti attended Biden’s bill-signing Monday for his infrastructure package.
Los Angeles Police Officer Matthew Garza sued the city in July 2020, alleging that former Garcetti advisor Rick Jacobs made crude remarks and touched him inappropriately. Garza alleges that Garcetti and mayoral staff saw Jacobs’ behavior but didn’t do anything to stop it. In some cases, Garcetti laughed at Jacobs’ crude remarks, the lawsuit alleges.
Both Garcetti and Jacobs deny the allegations. In his own deposition, Jacobs denies sexually harassing anyone but conceded that he might have hugged members of the security detail and made sexual jokes.
In depositions, a former staffer in Garcetti’s office described receiving unwanted massages from Jacobs, and another former staffer talked about being forcibly kissed on the mouth by him.
Two former staffers also wrote texts in which they discussed Jacobs’ inappropriate conduct toward male employees, and those texts were produced during the depositions. An additional male staffer — who later was revealed to be Garcetti’s longtime spokesman — texted another former aide to say that he had been “hit on” again by Jacobs. The mayor’s office told The Times the male staffer denied experiencing sexual harassment.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is President Biden’s nominee to become ambassador to India.
A complaint about Jacobs’ alleged behavior to Garcetti’s former chief of staff, Ana Guerrero, didn’t result in anything, one of the staffers said. Another one said he was worried about being blackballed by the office.
Garcetti, his wife, Amy Wakeland, and Guerrero at different points discussed Jacobs’ allegedly sexually harassing behavior when Garza was present, one of Garza’s attorneys has said. Garcetti, Wakeland and Guerrero deny those allegations.
Garcetti, in his own deposition, has said he didn’t see Jacobs inappropriately touch Garza. He also said he didn’t hear Jacobs talk explicitly about sex, saying such behavior would be “completely out of character” for his former advisor.
Guerrero herself made a sexually suggestive comment about a newly hired city planning director on a private Facebook group. She was later placed on leave for the posts she made in the Facebook group, which included mocking the appearances of City Hall aides and politicians — comments that to some revealed an insular and vindictive culture in the mayor’s office.
Asked in August by The Times about alleged retaliation that went on in his office, Garcetti declined to comment because of the ongoing litigation in Jacobs’ case. But he talked personally, saying, “You’re asking if I’ve seen that, if I’ve done that? No, that’s all I can speak to.”
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