Sexual Harassment Suit Against Garcetti Aid Settled for $1.8 million

The seven-figure settlement, sources tell Los Angeles exclusively, is still awaiting approval by the city council

​​A Los Angeles Police Department officer who accused the former chief political advisor of ex-Mayor Eric Garcetti of sexual harassment has agreed to settle his lawsuit with the city, court filings show.

Sources close to the matter tell Los Angeles exclusively that the amount of the expected payout awaiting final approval from the city is $1.8 million.

In July 2020, Matthew Garza, 47, a member of the elite LAPD Metropolitan Division who served on the mayor’s security detail, filed the lawsuit alleging a pattern of sexual harassment on the job by Jacobs.

Garza alleged that Jacobs repeatedly lobbed lewd comments at him and frequently engaged in unsolicited neck massages and hugs.

Testifying under oath in his own deposition, Garcetti denied that he had any knowledge of Jacobs allegedly touching Garza inappropriately or making comments about the police officer, saying such behavior would have been “completely out of character” for Jacobs.

“He’s a sick pervert,” Garza testified about Jacobs. “He’s trying to get, maybe, a cheap thrill off of hugging somebody who’s young and strong and who he thinks is somewhat attractive.”

The settlement will spare the public what would have been a bitterly divisive two-month trial, said Greg Smith, the go-to attorney for the L.A. Police Protective League, who has represented Garza from the start of the case.

Sources say that once Garcetti stepped down as L.A. mayor in December, it opened space for settlement discussions to proceed, as the political and emotional elements that had kept attention focused on the case for years departed with him.

Garcetti himself was never accused of sexual misconduct; Jacobs has called the claims in the lawsuit “a work of pure fiction.” 

A 319-page confidential report assembled in 2020 by Sacramento-based attorney Leslie Ellis, contracted by the city to conduct an independent investigation of Garza’s accusations, cleared Garcetti and Jacobs of wrongdoing.

Garza was on a prolonged leave of absence from his police job—he had back problems and a daughter with a disability—when he filed the lawsuit. A month later, he filed another suit claiming he’d been abused by a priest at the St. Benedict’s Catholic Elementary School in Montebello when he was ten years old. (Court filings show Garza voluntarily withdrew the suit against the Church in September 2021.)

Garza’s litigation against the city divided the loyalties of aides in Garcetti’s inner circle. In a  deposition, ex-mayoral communications czar Naomi Seligman said that Jacobs belittled her with an unwanted kiss in front of her staff, a claim disputed by staffers present at the time.

With Garcetti‘s nomination as ambassador to India in 2021, the lawsuit became fodder for escalating partisan warfare in the Senate.

At the time Garza filed his lawsuit, he was reportedly angry with Garcetti for cutting the police budget by $150 million in the wake of the social unrest surrounding the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in the summer of 2020.

Dennis O’Sullivan, a police colleague of Garza’s, claimed in an interview with an independent investigator hired by the city that Garza had called O’Sullivan and angrily denounced Garcetti’s pivot to Black Lives Matter, swearing that he’d sue the city over the mayor’s much-quoted comments about the police being “killers.”

Now that the city has reached a tentative agreement with Garza, its Claims Board will decide whether to recommend the terms of the settlement to the city council’s budget and finance committee, which will make a recommendation to the City Council, the final authority in authorizing the payout. (A spokesman for Councilmember Bob Blumenfield, who chairs the Budget and Finance committee, said they have yet to receive notice of the settlement.)

Mayor Karen Bass will have a 10-day window to veto any City Council-approved settlement figure that is forthcoming.

“I know it feels anticlimactic,” Smith said of the settlement, “but our goal is to do what’s best for the client.”  

The last time a mayor of L.A. vetoed an award from a lawsuit was in 2007, when fierce political blowback prompted Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to strike the $2.7 million award from a 2004 firehouse incident in which a black firefighter was fed dog food.