@THE GUSS REPORT-The next time that someone – regardless of race, gender, identity and sexual orientation – sues the City of Los Angeles over a hostile workplace environment, sexual harassment or whistleblower claim, today’s column may wind up in the lawsuit’s discovery process.
That is especially true if the alleged abuser is disgraced LA City Councilmember Jose Huizar, (photo above left) who is a walking magnet for those claims.
“Huizar is a SEXUAL PREDATOR TO THE WOMEN IN THE OFFICE,” screams the final sentence of a warning sent last year to LA City Council president Herb Wesson’s (photo above right) office, continuing, “AND swears he is untouchable.”
Those words and the content preceding it were sent to Vanessa Rodriguez, Wesson’s then-Communications Deputy who, as this column has pointed out in recent weeks, served as a buffer for her boss while frequently preserving such concerns by sending them to her personal email account, along with other City content.
That content was introduced with a single sentence, “Hi, this is an Ex Staffer who used to work for Huizar,” which appears, based on other evidence, to have been introduced by Rodriguez either to Wesson or his chief of staff Deron Williams.
What’s in-between those two sentences is the story of a long-term Huizar staffer who claims to have endured years of workplace trauma and his alleged financial misconduct that may be at the root of the FBI’s raid of Huizar’s home and offices last year.
But today’s column is also about the silence about these allegations not only by Wesson, but also from two other powerful City officials, namely LA City Attorney Mike Feuer and the General Manager of the City’s Personnel Department, Wendy Macy, both of whom hold Harvard Law degrees, as well as Harvard undergrad degrees. The two refuse to state what the City has done to protect the women who still work in or do business with Huizar’s office, as well as the tens of thousands of other city employees regardless of their race, gender, sexual identity and preferences.
The communication also alleges Huizar’s “. . .shady deals and gcp and ab1290 monies being used for golf and tables and fundraisers,” which may refer to the FBI investigating Huizar and his wife, Richelle Rios-Huizar, for allegedly criminally using City Hall influence to raise money for his alma mater, which employed Rios-Huizar, from land developers who seek approval from the powerful Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee which Wesson assigned Huizar to Chair, at least until the FBI raids went down.
Despite all this, Wesson keeps protecting Huizar, and even publicly campaigned for him as “my best friend.”
What might also be at-play is Wesson’s misogyny, at least according to other records.
Rodriguez, who left the City’s employment to work for controversial smoking cessation company Juul Labs shortly after she forwarded this email, was also upset at the time of her departure that Wesson for years ignored her concerns about not being paid the salary that she says he promised her as far back as 2015.
If true, Wesson’s misogyny might also explain why he has underwhelmed when it comes to hiring long-term, senior-level women on his staff since the sudden death of his chief of staff, Charmette Bonpua, nearly a decade ago.
And where exactly are the public sector unions which take dues from City employees, but haven’t taken overt measures to force City Hall to protect them?
So when that next sexual harassment, hostile workplace or whistleblower retaliation lawsuit hits, this column and that email may wind up in the hands of the lawyers seeking to settle these scores at taxpayer expense.
This also helps explain the legal calisthenics of Wesson, Feuer and the LAPD as they continually try to block and harass this columnist from accessing people, places and information to expose these stories. But ultimately, the stories get told despite those efforts to silence this voice, thanks in part to many of you.
You can read the entire communiqué, which appears to be cut and pasted from a text message sent to Rodriguez, by clicking here.
(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a member of the Los Angeles Press Club, and has contributed to CityWatchLA, KFI AM-640, iHeartMedia, 790-KABC, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal, Pasadena Star News, Los Angeles Downtown News, and the Los Angeles Times in the sports, opinion, entertainment and Sunday Magazine, among other publishers. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Photos: Gary Leonard. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.