Los Angeles has convened a special panel to investigate City Councilman José Huízar after receiving a complaint of harassment, discrimination and retaliation against him, according to the city’s personnel department.
[Editor’s note: On Oct. 3, it was reported that the complaint against Huízar is about discrimination, not harassment or retaliation.]
City Council President Herb Wesson called for the formation of a Special Committee on Investigative Oversight after learning of the complaint against Huízar on June 13, said Bruce Whidden, a personnel spokesman.
Whidden said the five-member panel, which is tasked with deciding whether the complaint is serious enough that an independent investigator should be hired, has not yet met.
Huízar said in a statement that he could not comment on the complaint because he was not aware of any details, but said he was “confounded” about why such a complaint would be filed.
“I can say that I take great pains to ensure that my staff and I conduct City business in a professional environment and treat all employees and visitors with the utmost dignity and respect,” Huízar said in the statement. “Obviously, I take this matter seriously and look forward to a full, transparent and expeditious resolution.”
The complaint was reported in June on MyVoiceLA, a new website for city employees to report workplace bias, retaliation and sexual harassment created in April by Mayor Eric Garcetti. The identity of the accuser is confidential, Whidden said.
This is the second time the panel has been called to investigate Huízar, who was accused of sexual harassment by a female aide in 2013. At the time, Francine Godoy, his former deputy chief of staff, said that he had offered to back her in a run for local office in exchange for sex, and that after she refused he withdrew his support and forced her to transfer to a different job.
Godoy also filed a separate sexual harassment lawsuit against Huizar and the city. Huizar denied the allegations, saying he and Godoy had engaged in a consensual affair, but settled the lawsuit privately, the Los Angeles Times reported in 2014. The Times also reported that the committee found no evidence of wrongdoing on Huizar’s part.
Huizar, who has been in office since 2005, will leave the seat in 2020 since term limits prevent him from seeking reelection. His wife, City Commissioner Richelle Huizar, announced she would run to replace him on Sept. 13, the same day Wesson was informed of the complaint against José Huizar.
This post’s headline was changed on Oct. 3 to reflect new information.