By City News Service
Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar said Tuesday he made a "huge mistake" by carrying on an extra-marital affair with his former chief of staff, who is now suing him for sexual harassment.
Huizar admitted last week—through a spokesman for his attorney—to an "occasional and consensual" relationship with former council aide Francine Godoy. But he denied sexually harassing her.
"All I can say is, I regret the relationship I had with this woman, but her other accusations are false and malicious," he said today as he attended his first council meeting since admitting the affair.
Huizar's admission of a relationship, and his denial that he harassed Godoy, came as he attempts to rally financial support for a 2015 re-election campaign to serve a third term on the council. He will hold his first fundraiser tonight in downtown Los Angeles. Council President Herb Wesson is expected to appear as a headliner.
Huizar, who represents the 14th District, said his council office's work in the last eight years will carry weight with voters.
"I think voters will look at my record," Huizar said. "My team has done a very good job in the last eight years and my constituents recognize that."
Huizar said he helped bring in millions of dollars of improvements to the El Sereno area and revitalized Colorado Boulevard and Eagle Rock.
According to Godoy's lawsuit, Huizar suggested in 2012 that Godoy run for a seat on the Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees.
On Oct. 8, 2012, Huizar called Godoy to his office and said that "if she wanted his continued support in her campaign for the (community college board), she would have to have sex with him," according to the lawsuit.
After Godoy refused, Huizar grew angry and began yelling and cursing at her, the lawsuit claims.
Earlier this year, Wesson convened a special committee to investigate sexual harassment claims against a city official. That panel, which has the option to hire an investigator to look into the matter, has met once so far, but has not taken any reportable action so far, according to Raelynn Napper, the city's Equal Employment Opportunity coordinator.
Meanwhile, a top aide in another council office is also facing sexual harassment allegations. A lawsuit was filed in September by a former field deputy alleging Councilman Mitchell Englander's chief of staff John Lee "repeatedly made inappropriate and offensive jokes and comments of a sexual nature" in her presence.
The person who filed the suit did not reveal her name and is listed on the suit as "Jane Doe."
The suit claims Lee laughed when she reported that someone had looked up her skirt. Lee also refused to consider her for a position as the public safety deputy, saying she was not right for the job because she is a "petite pretty girl," the suit alleges.
The suit further alleges "sexual comments were rampant" in Englander's 12th District office and that the councilman mocked her aspirations to take on the public safety deputy role, telling her that she only wanted the job so she could "walk into the fire stations and be naked in front of the male firefighters."
Englander has issued a statement saying the allegations are "surprising because my office has always had a system in place where any situation like this would immediately surface and be dealt with."