L.A. Now

Councilman Jose Huizar calls relationship with staffer 'huge mistake'

Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar on Tuesday called his extramarital relationship with a former staffer a "huge mistake," but said he expects voters will judge him on his accomplishments in the district he represents.

Huizar discussed the relationship after attending his first council meeting since he was named in a sexual harassment lawsuit by his former deputy chief of staff, Francine Godoy. He made his remarks on the same day as the kickoff event for his March 2015 reelection campaign.

Godoy, 34, accused Huizar last week of waging a campaign of sexual harassment and retaliation against her. Huizar responded by calling Godoy's allegations false while also confirming that he had an "occasional and consensual" relationship with her.

"I made a huge mistake when it comes to the relationship I had with this woman," said Huizar, facing reporters in a stairwell near the council chamber.

Huizar is the only person to announce that he is running in the 14th District, which takes in such neighborhoods as Eagle Rock, El Sereno and Boyle Heights. He was set to appear Tuesday at a campaign fundraiser at a nightclub in downtown L.A.

Council President Herb Wesson, who instructed personnel officials earlier this year to form a special committee to investigate Godoy's allegations, was identified on invitations as a "special guest" at Huizar's kickoff fundraiser.

Huizar, who is married, would not say how long the relationship with Godoy lasted. Asked whether voters would care about an extramarital affair, he pointed to his work in his district, saying his staff had succeeded in bringing resources to neighborhoods that have been "neglected for decades."

"I think the voters will look at my record," he said.

The lobbyists, business leaders and others who attended Huizar's fundraiser offered a similar message. Ruben Gonzalez, vice president of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, said the focus of the campaign should be on Huizar's work in his council district.

"That's going to be the question of this election. Not any of the rest of it," said Gonzalez, noting that he was speaking on his own behalf.

In her lawsuit, Godoy alleged that Huizar sabotaged her campaign for a seat on the Los Angeles Community College Board after she refused his advances.

Godoy worked for Huizar for seven years and saw her annual salary grow from around $47,000 to more than $132,000 in January, according to personnel department officials. In April, she took a position with the city's Bureau of Sanitation, where she earns more than $119,000 in her job as a principal project coordinator.

Facing reporters, Huizar would not say what Godoy's duties were in his office. His spokesman, Rick Coca, said later that the councilman's lawyer had advised him not to discuss Godoy's duties.

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