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Harassment claim filed against Huizar

CALIFORNIA

Former staffer files a complaint against the city councilman, who denies the assertions.

August 13, 2013|David Zahniser

A woman who was until recently Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar's deputy chief of staff has filed a workplace discrimination and sexual harassment complaint against the city and her former boss, according to information from 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.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday, August 14, 2013 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 52 words Type of Material: Correction
Sexual harassment: An article in the Aug. 13 LATExtra about a sexual harassment claim against Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar incorrectly characterized the outcome of a harassment case against former Councilman Nate Holden. Although Holden was cleared in one lawsuit, a second case was settled by the City Council for $175,000.

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 June 7 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 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. 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."

Alim confirmed the existence of the complaint after The Times provided the names of the parties.

Huizar spokesman Rick 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.

Godoy, 33, did not respond to requests for comment. She was hired by Huizar in March 2006 at an annual salary of around $47,000, according to figures obtained from the city's Personnel Department. By January 2012, she earned $112,668 annually. Last January, her salary had climbed to nearly $133,000.

Godoy's lawyer, Michael Eisenberg, would not say whether his client had been planning a bid for a particular political office. He declined to discuss any aspect of the complaint, saying he and Godoy are not prepared to "talk about it openly."

"Right now we're not going to be trying this in the media," he added.

Coca said that because of the potential for litigation, Huizar cannot comment further on the Godoy matter. "In the meantime, however, the council member remains focused on delivering top-notch city services to the constituents of the 14th Council District," Coca said. The 14th District includes downtown, Boyle Heights and Eagle Rock.

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 -- but pointed out that it isn't him. He said that he had instructed the city's Personnel Department to assemble the five-member Special Committee on Investigative Oversight, and that he would have no involvement in the selection process.

That committee comprises two law professors, one male and one female; two former judges, one male and one female; and a member of the American Arbitration Assn. Both law professors must have experience in employment law, according to the city's rules.

The special committee convened by Wesson has been assembled only four times since its creation. In all four cases, the allegations were not substantiated, said Maggie Whelan, the Personnel Department's general manager. The panel is charged with determining whether the charges have merit and an investigator should be named.

The committee's review process was created in 1996 in the wake of a sexual harassment allegations lodged against then-Councilman Nate Holden -- Wesson's onetime boss. Holden was exonerated in two separate cases, with taxpayers paying more than $1 million to cover his attorney's fees.

Godoy has been serving as a principal project coordinator for the Sanitation Bureau. She earns nearly $119,000 in that post, personnel officials said.

--

david.zahniser@latimes.com

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