A former staffer for Los Angeles City Councilman José Huízar is suing the city and her former employer, saying that he retaliated against her after she reported concerns about “potential legal and ethical violations,” including an alleged affair with another staffer.
Mayra Álvarez, who worked as Huízar’s executive assistant and scheduler before resigning in July, filed a lawsuit on Monday accusing the councilman of wrongfully terminating her for “voicing discomfort with some of his and the office’s practices which she believed violated local, state, and federal law,” according to the suit.
Huízar denied the allegations and called the legal action politically motivated.
In the lawsuit, which was first reported by the Los Angeles Times, Álvarez said Huízar ordered his office to work on his wife’s campaign to replace him on the City Council after his term expires in 2020, a potential violation of ethics rules that prohibit government employees from engaging in political activity while on city time. She also accused him of pregnancy discrimination and workplace harassment, saying that he demoted her for going on maternity leave earlier this year, as well as disability leave.
Álvarez also claimed that Huízar made her retroactively alter information in his schedule about meetings with “lobbyists and developers” after the Los Angeles Times requested copies of his calendars under the California Public Records Act.
Álvarez said she voiced her concerns about these actions, as well as her frustration with Huízar’s preferential treatment toward a staffer that she said was having an affair with him. The staffer, who is not named in the suit, allegedly “received more favorable treatment from [Huizar] with respect to assignments and more leniency with respect to deadlines and attendance.”
In a statement, Huizar called the lawsuit “absolute nonsense” and said that the accusations against him were “completely false.”
“It is nothing more than a hit piece orchestrated by political operatives who seek to undermine all the good work I’ve accomplished on behalf of my constituents,” Huízar said in the statement. “I find it suspicious that these claims have surfaced now when my wife has announced her candidacy for my seat. This further supports that this is politics at its worst.”
His wife Richelle Huízar announced she would run for the City Council District 14 seat last month. He is ineligible to run for reelection due to term limits.
The lawsuit comes a month after a city employee reported a discrimination complaint against Huizar through MyVoiceLA, an online portal set up by Mayor Eric Garcetti. That complaint is unrelated, according to Álvarez’ attorney Terrence Jones, and is currently being investigated by a special committee at the direction of City Council President Herb Wesson.
Another former Huízar staffer, Francine Godoy, sued Huízar in 2013, alleging that he sexually harassed her and intervened to prevent her from winning a seat on the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees after she refused his sexual advances. Huízar said he had a consensual extramarital affair with Godoy, which he called a “huge mistake,” but denied that he had harassed her, and settled the case privately in 2014.
Álvarez, who started working for Huízar as an intern in 2010 and now works for State Assemblywoman Wendy Carillo, is seeking financial damages as well as legal fees. Huízar has served on the City Council since 2005.
Photo above: Councilman José Huízar speaks at March press conference in downtown Los Angeles.