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Wed, May

In a Groper-Trump Political Climate Will Jose Huizar’s Scandals Derail a Run for Congress?

LOS ANGELES

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-Remember this past July when we were sure Trump’s run for presidency would be toppled by the leaked Access Hollywood Bus Tapes? Months later, we’re trying to avert our eyes from early morning tweets, the Apprentice-scale Cabinet competition and buddy to buddy calls with foreign dignitaries. 

Back in 2013, two years after Anthony Weiner had resigned from Congress over a sexting scandal, the politician had risen from the ashes as a reformed family man and hero of the middle class but his NYC mayoral campaign came to a halt mid-primary season after another online relationship was revealed. Weiner revealed two days after dropping out of the Democratic primary that he had engaged in online sexually charged relationships with between six and ten women after leaving Congress. 

It would seem personal scandals can either stick like Velcro or bounce off a candidate’s back, depending upon the scenario or perhaps, depending upon the candidate. Closer to home, we wonder if LA Councilmember Jose Huizar’s “illustrious” past will place an obstacle before his possible Congressional run to fill the 34th Congressional District seat expected to be vacated by Rep. Xavier Becerra’s appointment to fill the final two years of Kamala Harris’s State Attorney General post. 

According to Huizar’s campaign aide, Rick Coca, the Chair of the Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee has been reported to be considering an election bid to represent the central and northeast areas of Los Angeles. Despite a past that includes a settled sexual harassment suit, an extramarital relationship, and a city-settled lawsuit over a fender-bender, he managed to get reelected to his third and final full council term last year. 

Just a year earlier, in 2014, Huizar was in the center of not one but two lawsuits. In March, the LA City Council voted unanimously to approve a $185,000 settlement to David Ceja, a former Huntington Park police officer. Ceja’s 2002 Saturn was hit by Huizar’s city-owned SUV in October 2011. Ceja’s attorney had filed an initial claim against the city for over $500,000 in December, questioning whether the council member had received special treatment from LAPD since, according to the attorney, the investigators had waited 2 ½ hours to administer a breathalyzer test, which came out clean. A few weeks prior to the settlement, Ceja’s attorney stated he had no concerns about the police treatment. 

Just months later, Huizar agreed to settle a 2013 sexual harassment case brought by his former deputy chief of staff, Francine Godoy (photo left), who did not obtain a payout from the city, though the city did have to pony up tax dollars for Huizar’s legal fees. In April, the council had voted to approve up to $200,000 to the firm representing Huizar, though it was unclear whether the limit had been reached. 

Godoy alleged in her suit that her former boss had retaliated against her for refusing to submit to his request for sexual favors, a charge Huizar denied, although he did admit to an extramarital relationship with Godoy, who had worked for Huizar from 2006-2013. During her employment, her salary had grown from about $47,000 to over $132,000, according to personnel department officials. Godoy alleged that Huizar denied her promotions, forced her transfer and pressured her to quit her job. She also alleged he had sabotaged her attempted run for Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees in 2012. 

A panel that investigated her complaints concluded a lack of evidence to support her allegations of discrimination and retaliation but did find that she had received pay raises multiple times at a “faster rate” than other staffers in Huizar’s office. 

As reported in City Watch, last week, the LA City Planning Commission (and Huizar) gave a billionaire developer a green light for special spot-zoning for his 20-story luxe high-rise known as “333 La Cienega,” proposed for the intersection of La Cienega and San Vicente, “opening the door to more tall development in the area.” CityWatch reported that Rick Caruso and his associates at Caruso Affiliated Holdings had contributed over $120,000 in campaign contributions to 42 candidates in LA. Caruso has contributed $65,750 to elected officials, including $2,200 to Huizar. 

Do you think Huizar’s past will catch up with him if he decides to run for Becerra’s congressional seat? We’ll have to wait to see.

 

(Beth Cone Kramer is a Los Angeles writer and a columnist for CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

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