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Garcetti ‘likely knew or should have known’ about aide’s alleged sex misconduct, report finds

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) has released the results of an investigation into Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, shown delivering the State of the City address in April. Garcetti is President Biden’s nominee for ambassador to India.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

A prominent Republican senator’s investigation into allegations surrounding Mayor Eric Garcetti and his former top aide found it “extremely unlikely” that Garcetti was unaware of the aide’s alleged inappropriate behavior.

The 23-page report released Tuesday by Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa concluded that Garcetti “likely knew or should have known that Rick Jacobs was sexually harassing multiple individuals and making racist comments towards others.”

Grassley, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, ordered the report earlier this year after whistleblowers approached his office with accusations about Garcetti and Jacobs, a high-level aide who helped propel the mayor’s political career.

Garcetti in July was nominated by President Biden to become ambassador to India.

Grassley said Tuesday he would allow Garcetti’s nomination to move forward but intends to vote “no” on the mayor’s nomination if it goes to the full Senate.

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Following the release of the report, Garcetti said, “While I strongly disagree with the opinion reached in this report, I am pleased that Sen. Grassley has lifted his hold and hope that my nomination by the president can be considered by the Senate soon.”

Both Jacobs and Garcetti declined to be interviewed by Grassley’s investigators. Garcetti spokesman Harrison Wollman earlier this month said the mayor offered to meet with Grassley, but the meeting has not occurred.

Senators are reviewing L.A. mayor’s testimony that he didn’t know about alleged sexual harassment by a top advisor. Here’s the evidence lawmakers may be considering.

It was not immediately clear what impact the investigation would have on Garcetti’s nomination.

The White House issued a statement Tuesday afternoon dismissing the investigation as biased and incomplete. White House spokesman Chris Meagher said Grassley’s “partisan report was a hit job from the beginning,” and the claims “have already been conclusively debunked.”

“The president has confidence in Mayor Garcetti,” Meagher continued, “and believes he will be an excellent representative in India at a critical moment and calls for the Senate to swiftly confirm him.”

The Senate confirmation process has dragged on for months as Grassley and other senators signaled doubts about Garcetti’s nomination. His second and final term as mayor ends in December, and multiple candidates are vying in the June 7 primary to succeed him.

The allegations surrounding the mayor’s office became public in 2020, when a Los Angeles police officer who worked as Garcetti’s bodyguard sued the city, claiming Jacobs sexually harassed him and the mayor witnessed the behavior but didn’t intervene.

Jacobs has denied harassing anyone but said in deposition testimony that he may have hugged the officer. He also has said he may have made sexual jokes in front of the mayor’s security detail.

Other city staffers have said in deposition testimony or in interviews with The Times that it was widely discussed in the mayor’s office that Jacobs sexually harassed individuals.

An attorney for Jacobs did not respond to a request for comment.

Garcetti’s nomination was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January. A month earlier, Garcetti told the panel he had never witnessed the misconduct alleged by the police officer. He has also said he never witnessed any inappropriate behavior by his aide.

Email correspondence reviewed by The Times through public records shows that Grassley’s investigators in recent weeks contacted several top staffers in Garcetti’s office, including advisor Ana Guerrero, seeking to interview them for the report.

Grassley’s investigators interviewed 15 witnesses and read 26 depositions taken in the civil lawsuit of LAPD Officer Matthew Garza. Eleven other individuals working for or close to the mayor refused to meet with investigators, the report said.

The report largely includes evidence that has already been made public. However, one of the new allegations is from a witness who described an incident in which Jacobs allegedly massaged and rubbed his groin against another person at the 2015 U.S.-China Climate Summit in Los Angeles.

The report cites witnesses who claimed that Jacobs made racist remarks at the conference, where he allegedly referred to visitors as “the yellow people.”

Another individual told investigators Garcetti said he couldn’t believe the city wasn’t sued during the time Jacobs worked at City Hall.

Former Obama administration official Jeremy Bernard gave deposition testimony in which he also said he heard Garcetti make such a remark. The mayor has denied making the statement.

Grassley’s investigation follows a report ordered by the city attorney’s office to help in its defense of the Garza case. The report concluded that Garza was not sexually harassed by Jacobs and that Garcetti did nothing wrong.

Grassley’s investigators questioned the independence of the city report. They also reviewed the same testimony given to the city’s investigators but came to a different conclusion.

For example, Garcetti advisor Guerrero said she never saw Jacobs sexually harass Garza. She also suggested that Jacobs hugged people in order to assert dominance in the relationship, according to the city’s report.

“Ms. Guerrero appears to be describing predatory behavior that is consistent with Officer Garza’s complaint,” Grassley’s investigators wrote.

Grassley’s investigators raised questions about why those close to the mayor kept quiet about their knowledge of a photo, taken at a 2017 U.S. Conference of Mayors event in Miami, that shows Jacobs making a sexually provocative gesture. The photo was widely circulated among Garcetti’s staff, according to the report.

“It is difficult for investigators to believe that senior staff would not alert Mayor Garcetti of such a damning photo unless this type of behavior was normalized and known to the mayor,” the report noted.

Grassley’s team also cited an incident in which Garcetti’s former chief legal counsel, Julie Ciardullo, described in deposition testimony how Jacobs pressed up against her in an elevator. She told him to stop, but Jacobs continued until the mayor, who was also in the elevator, told him to stop. She also testified that what occurred on the elevator was not sexual harassment.

Garcetti’s office has said the mayor does not remember the incident.

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office said he gave “unintentionally blended numbers” when he told reporters that 40 people “under oath” have provided no “corroboration” of harassment allegations made against his former aide.

The report concluded that “it is more probable than not that Mr. Jacobs sexually harassed multiple individuals, and made racist comments towards others. Based on witness testimony, this behavior was pervasive, widespread, and notorious.”

“Several individuals told investigators that Mayor Garcetti was aware of this behavior, and based on the reported frequency and conspicuous nature of the conduct, it is more likely than not that Mayor Garcetti either had personal knowledge of the sexual harassment or should have been aware of it,” the report states.

The report notes that the probe by Grassley’s team “is not a criminal or civil investigation, but an investigation meant to assist in the Senate’s constitutionally mandated advice and consent process.”

Following the release of Grassley’s report, Libby Liu, chief executive of Whistleblower Aid, called on Biden to nominate another individual for the India ambassadorship. The nonprofit legal assistance organization represents Naomi Seligman, a former Garcetti communications director, who accuses Jacobs of kissing her — which he denies — and has led the effort to stop Garcetti’s nomination.

“The mayor’s failure to protect his staff, his attempts to discredit the testimony of those willing to tell the truth and his willful deception of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee raise grave questions about his ability to serve as our next ambassador to India,” Liu said.

Garcetti’s chief communications officer, Dae Levine, said “no new facts were uncovered” in the Grassley investigation, and “Mayor Garcetti strongly reaffirms the simple truth that he never witnessed or was made aware of sexual harassment.”


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