Councilman Jose Huizar hit by employee discrimination complaint
A woman who was until recently Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar’s deputy chief of staff has filed a workplace discrimination complaint against the city and her former boss, according to the state agency that receives such complaints.
Fahizah Alim, spokeswoman for the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, confirmed that a complaint was filed June 7 against Huizar by Francine Godoy, who left his office four months ago. The complaint, also filed against the city of Los Angeles, preserves Godoy’s right to sue in the future.
After The Times requested a copy of any paperwork filed by Godoy against Huizar, Alim released a redacted copy of a complaint -- one that has no visible names. In the document, the complainant said she experienced discrimination, harassment and retaliation because of her gender and her “refusal to engage in sex.”
“I was subjected to sexual harassment [quid pro quo and hostile work environment] and retaliated against when I refused advances,” the complaint states.
The complaint also alleges she was denied a promotion, forced to quit, forced to transfer, asked “impermissible non-job-related questions” and had her ability to run for public office “sabotaged.”
The document alleges that the activity took place on or before April 21. On that day, Godoy took a job with the city’s Bureau of Sanitation, according to city personnel officials. Alim confirmed the existence of the complaint after The Times provided the names of the parties.
The allegations come at a time when another California city is being roiled by sexual harassment allegations. In San Diego, Mayor Bob Filner went to a residential treatment facility recently after several women accused him of engaging in various forms of sexual misconduct.
Godoy, 33, did not respond to requests for comment. She was hired by Huizar in March 2006, earning $47,000 annually in that year, according to figures obtained from the city’s Personnel Department. By January 2012, Huizar paid her $112,668 annually. Last January, her salary had climbed to nearly $133,000.
Huizar, 44, who represents such neighborhoods as downtown, Boyle Heights and Eagle Rock, would not respond last week when asked by The Times if a city employee had filed a sexual harassment complaint against him. In a brief interview Tuesday, he referred questions on the topic to his spokesman, Rick Coca, who has not provided comment since then. [Updated, 4:15 p.m. Aug. 12: Coca said in an email that the councilman “strongly and emphatically denies the assertions made in the claim sent to the city and intends to fully cooperate with the city in any investigation of this matter.” Coca also said Huizar was “surprised” by the 2-month-old complaint.]
Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson confirmed that he moved last week to convene an independent panel whose sole duty is to examine misconduct complaints lodged by city employees against the city’s elected officials.
Wesson would not say which of the city’s 18 elected officials is the target or discuss the details. However, he confirmed that he had instructed the city’s Personnel Department to assemble the five-member Special Committee on Investigative Oversight.
Although she is still listed in the city’s online phone directory as Huizar’s deputy chief of staff, Godoy became a principal project coordinator for the sanitation bureau four months ago. She earns nearly $119,000 in that post, personnel officials said.
The special committee convened by Wesson has been assembled only four times since 1996. The committee’s investigation process was created in the wake of a sexual harassment case lodged against then-Councilman Nate Holden -- Wesson’s onetime boss.
A court ultimately cleared Holden of the allegations.
The investigative committee must be comprised of two law professors, one male and one female; two former judges, one male and one female; and a member of the American Arbitration Assn. Wesson said he would have no involvement in the selection process.
“I don’t want people to think that I’m looking over who’s on it, to try to suggest who should be selected,” Wesson said.
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