A discrimination, workplace harassment and wrongful termination lawsuit against Los Angeles Councilmember José Huízar can proceed, a judge ruled on Monday.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Superior Judge Richard E. Rico denied the councilmember’s request to put the case on hold while he deals with a federal criminal investigation. Huízar’s lawyers argued that a delay would protect his 5th amendment right against self-incrimination.
Monday’s ruling means that Huízar could be interviewed under oath about allegations by Mayra Álvarez –the first of two former staffers who filed harassment and discrimination lawsuits against the councilmenber last year.
Álvarez alleges that she faced retaliation after complaining to her superiors that Huízar was having an extramarital affair with a co-worker, and that the co-worker was receiving preferential treatment. She also alleged that Huízar was involved in illegal activities, such as altering his calendar to hide meetings with lobbyists.
Monday’s ruling came a week after another judge ruled that a second harassment lawsuit against Huízar can proceed, but that Huízar could not be asked to testify under oath until the FBI probe concluded. In her lawsuit, former Huízar aide Pauline Medina alleges that she was retaliated against for speaking out about potentially illegal office practices, such as using city funds to pay for personal expenses. Medina said the workplace situation became intolerable and she was forced to resign.
Huízar has denied allegations made in both lawsuits. “This is nothing more than a coordinated political attack by individuals who share the same attorney and have a vested interest in denigrating my name and supporting certain political opportunists,” he said in a statement released shortly after the second lawsuit was filed in October. “As a matter of fact, one of the accusers is a disgruntled former employee who left on her own accord after being confronted with an investigation that revealed her misconduct.”
Last year, FBI agents searched Huízar’s office downtown as well as his district office and home in Boyle Heights. Judge Rico said Monday that Huízar’s legal team had failed to show that the allegations in Álvarez’s lawsuit are the same or similar to alleged violations of law for “which Huízar is being investigated.”
The judge said, however, that he could change his mind about Huízar testifying if more information emerges about the federal investigation.