Another former staffer for Los Angeles City Councilman José Huízar has filed a lawsuit against him and the city, saying she was retaliated against for speaking out about potentially illegal office practices.
Pauline Medina, Huízar’s former office manager and lead administrator, said in the lawsuit filed Wednesday that she complained about using city funds to pay for Huízar’s personal expenses, and accused him of giving preferential treatment to another staffer with whom he was having an extramarital affair. In response, she said Huízar and his chief of staff, Paul Habib, created working conditions so “intolerable” that she had to resign.
Last week, Huízar’s former executive assistant and scheduler Mayra Álvarez sued him over alleged harassment and retaliation, stating that he forced her to retroactively alter some of his calendars to hide meetings with lobbyists and alleging, like Medina, that he was having an affair with a staffer. Medina’s attorney, Terrence Jones, who is also representing Álvarez, said she came forward after seeing that Álvarez was willing to speak about her experience.
“Ms. Medina … endured the same type of retaliation by the Councilman and just couldn’t sit back and let Ms. Alvarez stand up to him alone — particularly since Huízar responded by effectively calling the victim a liar,” Jones said in a statement.
In a statement, Huízar denied the “crazy” allegations and said the lawsuit was full of “misrepresentations.”
“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,” Huízar said in the statement. “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.”
In her lawsuit, Medina said she was told to funnel money from the City’s General Purpose Fund to Huízar’s alma mater, Salesian High School, as well as to pay for Huízar’s family gatherings, golf tournament sponsorships and other fundraising activities — actions that she believed violated ethics rules and laws.
Medina also said Huízar had a relationship with another one of his staffers, leading to extra responsibilities for Medina that caused her “extreme anxiety, which manifested in the form of debilitating migraines, stress-induced muscle pains, and panic attacks,” according to the lawsuit.
Medina said she began speaking out about her concerns in October of last year, and that as a result she was subjected to “a campaign to push her out of the office,” which included stripping her of certain responsibilities and reporting her to the city’s Personnel Department. She resigned in June after taking an extended medical leave of absence.
Huízar, who has served on the City Council since 2005, will reach the end of his term limit in 2020. His wife Richelle Huízar announced in September that she would run to fill his seat, on the same day that the city reported receiving a discrimination complaint against Huízar through its online portal, MyVoiceLA. Jones said neither of his clients filed that complaint.
Huízar was sued for sexual harassment in 2013 by another former staffer, Francine Godoy, who alleged that he intervened to prevent her from winning an election campaign after she refused his sexual advances. Huízar admitted to having a consensual extramarital affair but denied allegations of harassment, and the case was settled privately in 2014.
Photo above: Councilman José Huízar salutes WWII Marine Corps Veteran Albert Morales on Veterans Day in 2015.
This post has been updated to include a statement from José Huízar.