Former aide accuses Huizar of harassment
Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar said Thursday that he had a “consensual relationship” with a high-level former staffer who has accused him of waging a campaign of sexual harassment and retaliation against her.
Francine Godoy, 34, filed a lawsuit saying that Huizar “significantly” cut back her duties and instructed her to work from home after she spurned his advances. Hours later after the suit was filed, Huizar — through a spokesman — called Godoy’s claims “false and malicious,” saying that her lawsuit contained “fabricated events.”
“The lawsuit fails to mention that Ms. Godoy and the council member had an occasional and consensual relationship, which the council member deeply regrets,” said Robert Alaniz, speaking for the councilman. “He has apologized to his wife and family, and he and his wife are currently working on repairing their marriage.”
The exchange between Huizar, 45, and his former deputy chief of staff played out one month after the councilman filed fundraising paperwork to run for a third four-year term. It also comes at a personally difficult time for the lawmaker: His 3-year-old daughter, the youngest of his four children, was recently diagnosed with leukemia.
Godoy first lodged sexual harassment allegations against Huizar in June, submitting a three-page complaint to state authorities aimed at preserving her right to sue.
That lawsuit, which names Huizar and the city, arrived Thursday. Godoy alleges in the suit that last year, Huizar “explicitly conditioned” her employment benefits on sexual favors and punished her when she rebuffed his advances. She also accused her former boss of tying support for her political ambitions to his overtures for sex.
Godoy, who left Huizar’s office in April, said the councilman suggested last year that she run for a seat on the Los Angeles Community College District board. After she decided to do so, Huizar linked his continued support for her candidacy to sexual acts, the eight-page lawsuit states.
At one point in November, the lawsuit states, Huizar contacted Godoy on his cellphone and told her that he was “parked down the street from her home.” After she went to the car, Huizar said she would need to be “closer” to him for her to retain his support for community college board, the lawsuit states.
Godoy said Huizar withdrew his support for her candidacy after she spurned his advances. She did not run for the college board. But she was interested enough last year to meet with community college board member Steve Veres and discuss a possible campaign. Veres also recalled discussing Godoy’s interest in a college board seat with Huizar.
“He said he thought she would do great and was totally supportive of her,” said Veres, who is now running for the Silver Lake-to-Sherman Oaks seat being vacated by Councilman Tom LaBonge.
Alaniz said Huizar was “shocked and surprised” by the allegations in the lawsuit. “When the true facts come out, it will reveal that Ms. Godoy is someone seeking to damage the council member’s reputation because he would not help advance her career as she expected,” Alaniz said in the statement.
Huizar was elected to the council in 2005, representing neighborhoods stretching from Boyle Heights to Eagle Rock. Godoy joined his staff a year later, earning about $47,000 annually. Her yearly pay at the start of 2012 was more than $112,000, according to Personnel Department officials. By last January, it had jumped to more than $132,000.
Godoy left Huizar’s office to take a job as principal project coordinator in the city’s Bureau of Sanitation, with annual pay of nearly $119,000. In her lawsuit, she said she was driven from the council office to take the job.
“As a result of Huizar’s sexual harassment and retaliation, ignoring, removing duties and assignments, and being banned from entry into the office, [Godoy] was forced to quit her position as deputy chief of staff,” her lawsuit states.
Two months after she left Huizar’s office, Godoy filed her complaint with the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing. That prompted Council President Herb Wesson to order the formation of a panel to investigate the allegations.
The five-member Special Committee on Investigative Oversight — consisting of two law professors, two retired judges and a member of the American Arbitration Assn. — began its review last month. The group has met once.
City employees face disciplinary action if they are found to have engaged in sexual harassment. However, nothing in the city’s personnel policies bar them from having a consensual sexual relationship with a subordinate, said Raelynn Napper, who heads the city’s equal employment opportunity division.
“It’s not per se unlawful. It’s just not advisable,” Napper said. “Our advice is, avoid this conflict by removing the subordinate from the chain of command. It might not always be possible, but it’s the best practice.”
The stories shaping California
Get up to speed with our Essential California newsletter, sent six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.