A GOP Senator’s probe into allegations surrounding L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and his former top political advisor, Rick Jacobs, has found the mayor “likely knew or should have known” about the aide’s alleged sexual misconduct during the years they worked together in City Hall.
President Biden nominated Garcetti to become the U.S. Ambassador to India last July. But his stalled ascension to the head of the U.S. diplomatic mission in the world’s largest democracy is one of many sub-cabinet-level nominations that has been bogged down for months in a Senate evenly divided along party lines.
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, Ranking Member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, thwarted a fast-track confirmation vote for Garcetti on March 10, announcing that “new evidence” had been brought to the attention of his team of seasoned investigators after the Foreign Relations Committee approved Garcetti’s nomination in January.
The Grassley report notes that his team’s probe isn’t a criminal or civil investigation, but is meant “to assist in the Senate’s constitutionally mandated advice and consent process.” The White House discussed the report in different terms.
“This partisan report was a hit job from the beginning, and many of the claims have already been conclusively debunked by more serious independent reports,” the White House statement reads. “The president has confidence in Mayor Garcetti and believes he will be an excellent representative in India at a critical moment and calls for the Senate to swiftly confirm him.”
Despite this highlighting of “new evidence,” the report from Grassley added little substance to allegations that first arose from a lawsuit LAPD Officer Matthew Garza, a former bodyguard assigned to Garcetti’s security detail, filed against the city on July 14, 2020.
In the suit, Garza alleges that Jacobs, who is gay, sexually harassed him on the job over a period of years with repeated lewd comments, inappropriate messages and unwanted hugs. Jacobs, who left the mayor’s office in 2017, has admitted to occasionally having hugged or kissed others in greeting but called the charges of sexual harassment against him “pure fiction.” Garcetti has denied any knowledge of allegations against his aide, previously describing this scandal as coming “out of thin air.”
The 23-page report Grassley’s investigators released on May 10 was the product of interviews with 15 witnesses and a review of court transcripts from 26 depositions taken in the civil lawsuit. And it contains some new allegations.
One of these involves a person claiming they witnessed an incident in which Jacobs allegedly rubbed his groin against someone during the 2015 U.S.-China Climate Summit, which took place in L.A. Another new allegation echoed an earlier claim from the lawsuit that Garcetti had expressed relief that the city wasn’t sued from 2014 until 2017— the years when Jacobs was on staff. Jeremy Bernard, the former CEO of the nonprofit Mayor’s Fund, made the allegation at a deposition last year.
Meanwhile, the mayor’s former chief spokeswoman has filed a complaint with prosecutors demanding Garcetti be prosecuted for perjury after his statements before the Judiciary Committee. Naomi Seligman said in a February letter that she hopes her actions will prevent Garcetti from becoming an ambassador. Grassley’s report notes that while being deposed, Seligman also alleged Jacobs had repeatedly harassed her while she worked with him at Los Angeles City Hall from 2015 to 2017.
At a December Foreign Relations panel hearing, Garcetti said that he had never witnessed any inappropriate behavior by his aide. An independent report released earlier this year by Leslie Ellis of the Ellis & Makus law firm, who is a specialist in sensitive workplace investigations and was hired to investigate Jacobs and Garcetti effectively cleared both of any wrongdoing.
Jacobs and many of his former colleagues have firmly denied both Seligman and Garza’s charges of sexual harassment on his part during his years in the mayor’s office.
Grassley’s report, however, indicates that many witnesses had told investigators that Garcetti either had personal knowledge of these instances of sexual harassment or should have been aware of them.
“It is more probable than not that Mr. Jacobs sexually harassed multiple individuals, and made racist comments towards others,” this week’s report concludes. “Based on witness testimony, this behavior was pervasive, widespread, and notorious.”
Garcetti, Jacobs, and 11 other employees or associates of the mayor refused to speak with investigators, according to the report. Their reasons for not speaking with Grassley’s team are not made clear in the report.
On Tuesday, Grassley signed a statement declaring that he is releasing the hold on Garcetti’s nomination; the decision was greeted with relief by the mayor and his supporters. The senator from Iowa made also it clear in a letter to Biden that he will vote “no” if Garcetti’s nomination is considered by the full Senate. The White House appears to remain in the embattled mayor’s corner.