L.A. ethics panel approves fine for former CBS exec Leslie Moonves over interference with LAPD investigation

A standing man.
Then-CBS President Leslie Moonves in 2015.
(Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Former CBS President Leslie Moonves will pay $15,000 to settle a Los Angeles city ethics complaint over his role in an alleged cover-up of sexual assault accusations against him.

The city’s Ethics Commission unanimously approved the settlement Wednesday after previously rejecting a proposal for $11,250 in fines as too low.

Under the settlement, in addition to paying the $15,000, Moonves admitted that he violated city law by interfering with a police investigation into the sexual assault allegations.


Representatives for Moonves didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The allegations involving the LAPD and Moonves have drawn comparisons to “L.A. Confidential,” the James Ellroy novel and subsequent movie, in which corrupt police officers protect powerful figures.

Then-Police Capt. Cory Palka allegedly worked with Moonves and other CBS executives to bury a complaint made to the LAPD by a former colleague, Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb, alleging that Moonves had sexually assaulted her in the 1980s, according to the ethics complaint.

Palka, who has since retired, was then head of the department’s Hollywood station and nicknamed “Capt. Hollywood” because of his hobnobbing with celebrities. He had known Moonves for nearly a decade after working Moonves’ security detail for the Grammy Awards.

Palka didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Moonves’ career as head of CBS eventually collapsed amid a widening sex scandal that came to light as part of the #MeToo movement. Moonves, who stepped down from CBS in September 2018, has denied harassing or assaulting women.

The ethics complaint detailed how on Nov. 10, 2017, Golden-Gottlieb drove to the Hollywood station and filed a report against Moonves for the alleged sexual assault that happened decades ago.

Later that night, Palka called CBS officials and alerted them to Golden-Gottlieb’s report, the complaint said.


Golden-Gottlieb, who died in 2022, has alleged that Moonves invited her to lunch, then parked on a side street, forcibly grabbed her head and slammed it into his crotch before ejaculating into her mouth.

Over the next few weeks, Palka, Moonves and one of Moonves’ subordinates discussed strategies to thwart Golden-Gottlieb’s report and worked to make sure it didn’t gain traction within the Police Department or the L.A. County district attorney’s office, according to records that came to light in late 2022 as part of a report by New York Atty. Gen. Letitia James.

James had accused Moonves and CBS of misleading investors about the scope of the sexual harassment uncovered at CBS — information that was damaging to the company’s stock.

L.A. City Ethics Commission investigators, in their own case against Moonves, accused the CBS chief of three violations of the city’s Government Ethics Ordinance. Moonves aided and abetted the disclosure and misuse of confidential city information and induced Palka to misuse his city position, the investigators said.

The $15,000 fine approved Wednesday was the maximum allowed, with each count carrying a maximum penalty of $5,000.

Ethics Commission staff worked with Moonves to agree on the proposed fine, but it still needed approval by the Ethics Commission, the volunteer panel that oversees the department.


Gloria Allred, an attorney representing Golden-Gottlieb’s children, said in a statement that city law should be changed to allow “more significant punishments in the future for ethics violations.”

The statement also demanded a formal apology from the city and criticized the Ethics Commission for not speaking to the children, Cathy Weiss and Jim Gottlieb, about the impact on their mother.

“While it is a positive sign that the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission imposed the maximum fine against Les Moonves, unfortunately, that fine is still minimal and does not serve to deter others or punish Mr. Moonves in any significant manner,” the statement said.

Jamie York, president of the Reseda Neighborhood Council and a proponent for reforms, including higher fines for ethics violations, thanked the Ethics Commission for “standing up” and rejecting the lower fine.

At Wednesday’s meeting, she told the panel that the fine “doesn’t get anywhere near the damage that was done, but at least you’ve sent the message that something that’s egregious can’t be ignored and should not be ignored.”

The City Council is looking at a proposal to double penalties for violations of the ethics code and recoup the cost of investigations. It will be heard Thursday by a committee.


Then-LAPD Chief Michel Moore said last year that his department would conduct an internal investigation and work with the county district attorney and state attorney general on the case.

The Ethics Commission on Wednesday also approved several settlements for violations of a law that requires lobbyists to register with the city and report lobbying activities.

Among those who agreed to pay fines was onetime high-level mayoral aide Rick Jacobs, who admitted that he failed to report lobbying activity related to his client, Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, which is now known as the Western States Regional Council of Carpenters.

Jacobs agreed to pay $12,500 in fines.

A former advisor to former Mayor Eric Garcetti, Jacobs was accused several years ago by an LAPD officer of sexual harassment, which Jacobs denied. The police officer sued the city over Jacobs’ alleged behavior, resulting in a $1.8-million settlement last year.

Times staff writer Meg James contributed to this report.