Attorneys for Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar plan to ask a judge to postpone a lawsuit filed against him by an ex-staffer amid an ongoing FBI investigation into City Hall.
Huizar’s lawyers want a postponement of all proceedings in the case filed by Mayra Alvarez, a former Huizar aide who has accused the councilman of engaging in workplace harassment, pregnancy discrimination and retaliation, according to documents filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
The councilman’s lawyers also intend to ask a judge to seal their motion to delay the case, arguing that such a move would protect Huizar’s privacy and the integrity of the FBI probe.
In his motion, Huizar plans to “rely on information pertaining to the criminal investigation that is not public,” his lawyers said in the filing. If that motion is not kept under seal, the councilman’s constitutional rights and ability to defend himself in the Alvarez case “will be infringed,” they said.
A hearing on whether to seal the records is set for May 16. Alvarez filed a lawsuit in October alleging she faced retaliation after voicing concerns that Huizar was having an affair with an aide and engaging in practices "which she believed violated local, state, and federal law."
Terrence Jones, who represents Alvarez, did not respond to requests for comment this week. Jones said last month he would probably oppose efforts to postpone the proceedings or seal the documents that support such a move. He argued that Huizar should not get to “litigate his misconduct in the shadows.”
“His effort to file documents under seal isn’t born out of any real concern for his privacy interests,” Jones said in an email last month. “It’s just an effort to conceal from the public the fact that he has had yet another inappropriate in-office affair … that taxpayers are again going to have to pay for.”
Attorneys for The Times plan to oppose Huizar’s request to seal the documents in the Alvarez case.
“There simply is no justification for the court to proceed in secret in a case involving serious allegations about an elected public official,” said Kelli Sager, an attorney representing The Times.
Huizar and his attorneys also filed paperwork last week saying that they were seeking to delay proceedings in another case against the councilman due to the ongoing federal probe. In their filings, they said they planned to ask the judge to seal that postponement request as well.
That lawsuit, filed by ex-Huizar aide Pauline Medina, alleged that she too faced retaliation after complaining that Huizar had an affair with a staffer. Medina also claimed that the councilman had told his aides to perform inappropriate tasks.
Last week, a judge turned down Huizar’s request for a special hearing on whether to seal the request to delay the Medina case. Lawyers for Huizar declined to comment on their filings in the two cases and on whether they still plan to seek a delay in the Medina case.
The court filings come five months after FBI agents searched Huizar’s home and offices, hauling out an array of materials, including a cardboard box labeled “fundraising.”
Since then, real estate developers that have had business before City Hall have received subpoenas seeking records of their communications with Huizar and his staff and information on any donations the developers made to an array of political committees and causes.
Investigators also filed a search warrant last year seeking evidence of extortion, bribery and other possible crimes involving the councilman and several other figures at City Hall, including Councilman Curren Price, a high-level aide to Council President Herb Wesson, and appointees of Mayor Eric Garcetti.
No arrests have been announced and no charges have been filed publicly.
When Alvarez first filed her lawsuit, Huizar issued a statement calling her accusations “completely false” and “outlandish.”
“It is nothing more than a hit piece orchestrated by political operatives who seek to undermine all the good work I've accomplished on behalf of my constituents,” he said at the time.
Alvarez left the council office in July and now works for Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles). After Alvarez filed her lawsuit, Medina also sued the city.