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L.A. City Council pays $185,000 settlement in Jose Huizar crash case

The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday voted unanimously to pay $185,000 to end a lawsuit over a rear-end collision involving a city car driven by Councilman Jose Huizar.

On a 14-0 vote, council members signed off on the payout to David Ceja, a former Huntington Park police officer whose vehicle was struck by Huizar's city-owned SUV in 2012.

The council approved the agreement without comment. Because the settlement was treated as a consent item, lawmakers did not discuss the case -- either in open session or behind closed doors -- during the meeting.

After the vote, Council President Herb Wesson said he would not discuss the reasoning behind the payment. "We've got a pretty good city attorney and we followed his recommendation on this," he said.

Huizar was out of the room during the vote and released a statement an hour later. "While this was the type of unfortunate accident that could have happened to anybody, I take full responsibility for my part in this matter," he said. "I wasn’t personally involved in the final settlement agreement, which was mutually agreed upon by the City Attorney’s office and the plaintiff’s attorney."

The lawsuit was one of two that have been hanging over the councilman. In another case, a former Huizar staffer has accused him of engaging in sexual harassment and retaliation.

Huizar, 45, has described the lawsuit, filed by former deputy chief of staff Francine Godoy, as false and malicious. However, he also went public with his assertion that he had an extramarital affair with Godoy, who had worked for him for seven years.

A trial in the Godoy lawsuit is scheduled for November.

In the car crash case, Huizar's city-owned SUV struck Ceja's Saturn at an intersection in Boyle Heights. Ceja's lawyer filed a claim against the city for $510,000 two months later and questioned whether Huizar received special treatment from Los Angeles Police Department investigators.

Attorney Humberto Guizar asserted that police waited 2½ hours to administer a Breathalyzer test to Huizar to determine whether he had been drinking. Huizar tested at 0% and was not arrested. The legal limit for blood-alcohol content is 0.08%.

Asked about those issues two weeks ago, Guizar said he now has "no concerns" about police treatment of Huizar.


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Twitter: @DavidZahniser

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