City Hires Law Firm To Investigate Allegations Against Garcetti Adviser

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Los Angeles City Attorney's Office has hired an outside law firm to investigate sexual misconduct allegations against a close political ally and former deputy chief of staff to Mayor Eric Garcetti.

‘‘Our office has retained an outside investigator to do an independent investigation,'' Rob Wilcox, spokesman for City Attorney Mike Feuer, told the Los Angeles Times.

Leslie Ellis of Ellis & Makus has been retained to examine the allegations against Rick Jacobs, two sources told The Times. Ellis is a specialist in workplace investigations and plans to interview Los Angeles Police Department Officer Matthew Garza, who made the initial complains, as well as others who have accused Jacobs of misconduct, The Times reported.

Ellis was retained in September to represent the city, along with the City Attorney's Office, in the officer's case, a source told The Times. The officer's lawsuit against the city was filed in July.

Jacobs, who agreed Tuesday to temporarily step aside from his nonprofit work and political activities on behalf of Garcetti, faced additional sexual misconduct allegations from two more men Wednesday.

The Times reported on Wednesday that two men said they were targeted by Jacobs, one claiming he was groped by Jacobs at a party in 2012 and the other saying Jacobs tried to forcibly hug and kiss him at an event in Los Angeles last year.

Neither man provided his name for fear of reprisals, but according to The Times, both of their accounts were verified by friends who confirmed Jacobs' actions.

The paper also reported interviewing various people who know Jacobs and who said they were surprised by the accusations and never witnessed any misconduct by Jacobs.

Jacobs has denied any wrongdoing. Garcetti has also stood by Jacobs. A lawsuit filed against Jacobs in July alleged that Garcetti personally witnessed Jacobs' misconduct but did nothing to stop it.

Jacobs issued a statement Tuesday, saying, ‘‘For the past 17 years, I have dedicated myself to advocacy and public service. I do not want this to be a distraction. Therefore, I will take a leave from my nonprofit work and my volunteer political work with the mayor."

Garcetti also issued a statement Tuesday night, stating, ‘‘I take seriously all allegations of harassment. Rick Jacobs has stepped away from his nonprofit and volunteer political work."

According to The Times, a then-30-year-old man said he was leaving a party at Jacobs' house in 2012, and when he was saying goodbye, Jacobs squeezed his buttocks and told him, ‘‘If you and your boyfriend go south, give me a call.''

Another man described as a longtime Democratic strategist told the paper Jacobs approached him at an event last year and he ‘‘tried to hug and kiss me forcibly.'' The man said he tried to push Jacobs away, but he persisted until one of the man's friends intervened.

On Monday, Yashar Ali, a former deputy chief of staff to Gavin Newsom when he was mayor of San Francisco, came forward with allegations against Jacobs.

Ali, a contributor to New York magazine and the HuffPost, reported that Jacobs used to ‘‘forcibly kiss me when I worked in politics,'' and he accused Garcetti of doing nothing to stop it.

In a lengthy article posted to his online newsletter, Ali said he came forward after what he described as months of silence from the mayor's office following a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against Jacobs earlier this year by Garza, a 23-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department who served on Garcetti's security detail.

Ali said he read Garza's sexual harassment complaint and ‘‘the allegations in the lawsuit sounded familiar to me,'' adding he confronted Jacobs in a text message after the suit was filed.

Ali reported that he texted Jacobs that he ‘‘hated'' when Jacobs ‘‘used to forcibly kiss me on the lips in front of other people'' and that Jacobs would do it twice before turning to people nearby ‘‘and remark how soft my lips were.'' Ali added, ‘‘It was not something I enjoyed at all.''

Jacobs texted him back ‘‘Nothing at all is true. Nothing. It's fabricated.''

Ali said he reached out to a senior Garcetti aide soon after his text message exchange with Jacobs about his interactions with Jacobs over the years, but no action has been taken.

Garza contends in his lawsuit the alleged harassment occurred between 2014 and October 2019. The suit contends that Jacobs would frequently extend his hand to Garza for a handshake, but when Garza reciprocated, Jacobs ‘‘would use the handshake to pull (Garza) toward him and give (Garza) a long, tight hug, while simultaneously stating to (Garza) words to the effect of ‘You're so strong and handsome,' ‘Your muscles are so tight,' ‘I love my strong LAPD officers' or some other inappropriate comment.''

Garza also alleges in the suit that Jacobs would regularly make inappropriate comments in front of him, such as discussing ‘‘his young gay lover, ... having ‘rough sex' with his gay partners'' and ‘‘being attracted to younger men.'' The suit contends Garcetti was also present on ‘‘many, if not most of the occasions when Jacobs made sexually inappropriate comments,'' but took no action.

Garza also claims that while driving Garcetti around as part of his duties, Jacobs would occasionally reach from the back seat of the vehicle and massage Garza's shoulders while making suggestive comments such as ‘‘You're so strong'' or ‘‘I love my LAPD officers.''

According to the lawsuit, there were more than a dozen occasions on which members of Garcetti's staff apologized to Garza ‘‘for Jacobs' harassing conduct and comments,'' telling him ‘‘words to the effect of, ‘I'm sorry you have to deal with that, he's such a pig.''' Yet no action was taken, the suit claims.

Photo: Getty Images

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