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Former aide to Councilman Mitchell Englander files harassment suit

October 18, 2013|By David Zahniser
  • Los Angeles City Councilman Mitchell Englander, right, in 2012. In a statement Friday, he said: "The first I heard of these allegations was when I learned about this lawsuit."
Los Angeles City Councilman Mitchell Englander, right, in 2012. In a statement… (Francine Orr / Los Angeles…)

A former staffer to Los Angeles City Councilman Mitchell Englander has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the city, alleging that one of the lawmaker's top aides repeatedly made inappropriate sexual comments to her.

The staffer, identified as Jane Doe in the filing, claimed that sexual comments were "rampant" in Englander's office, which encouraged other staff members to "engage in similar inappropriate behavior."

In her lawsuit, the unnamed staffer accused Englander chief of staff John Lee of questioning her about her sex life and making crude remarks about her older boyfriend's sexual abilities. The lawsuit also alleged that Englander made improper remarks when the alleged victim asked to work on public safety issues.

Englander "questioned whether [the staffer] only wanted to be a public safety deputy so she could walk into the fire stations and be naked in front of the male firefighters," the lawsuit states.

Stephanie Saporito, Englander's spokeswoman, said the claims in the lawsuit are untrue. She released a statement from the councilman saying he wasn't aware of alleged improper conduct until the lawsuit was filed.

"The first I heard of these allegations was when I learned about this lawsuit, which is surprising because my office has always had a system in place where any situation like this would immediately surface and be dealt with," he said in the statement.

The lawsuit's filing was first reported by the Daily News. Lee has a yearly salary of $170,840, according to the city's personnel department.

The city is already contending with a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former staffer of Councilman Jose Huizar. In that case, former Huizar deputy chief of staff Francine Godoy accused her former boss of waging a campaign of sexual harassment and retaliation against her after she refused to provide specific "sexual favors."

Huizar has called Godoy's allegations false and "malicious." He said Thursday that he had a past, "consensual relationship" with Godoy and did not engage in harassment.

The harassment claims have arisen at a time when critics have noted that all but one of the city's 18 elected officials are men. The lone exception is Councilwoman Nury Martinez, who represents a portion of the San Fernando Valley.

The lawsuit involving Englander's office alleges that the misconduct occurred between Feb. 13, 2012, and April 19 of this year.

The plaintiff alleged that on one occasion she caught a co-worker looking up her skirt while she walked up a flight of stairs. Instead of reprimanding the employee, Lee, the chief of staff, “broke out in laughter,” the lawsuit states.

The staffer claimed she had “no choice but to constructively terminate her employment to end the harassing and discriminatory conduct.”


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Twitter: @davidzahniser

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