Mayor Eric Garcetti’s onetime chief spokeswoman has filed a complaint with local, state and federal prosecutors, demanding that he be prosecuted for perjury for repeatedly denying that he knew about another former aide’s alleged sexual misconduct.
A nonprofit law firm sent a 31-page letter on behalf of Naomi Seligman to the U.S. Department of Justice, the California attorney general’s office and Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón last week, accusing Garcetti of lying and conspiring with top staffers to cover up multiple accusations of sexual harassment against Rick Jacobs, the mayor’s former deputy chief of staff.
Seligman said she hopes felony charges will be filed against the mayor for allegedly lying under oath, in a legal deposition and in testimony to a U.S. Senate committee. She said she hopes that the letter also will have a political impact — causing the U.S. Senate to block Garcetti’s confirmation as U.S. ambassador to India.
The allegations were forwarded to more than half the members of the Senate, said Seligman’s lawyers, who also filed the complaints with the California State Personnel Board, the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission and the California State Auditor’s Office, under provisions of the state’s whistleblower protection law.
“Senators should be outraged that someone nominated to represent our country in a key diplomatic post would lie to their faces so brazenly,” Seligman said in a statement. “It’s time for them to take a serious look at the evidence that I and others have presented and live up to the commitment that many of them have made to protect victims of predatory behavior in the workplace.”
Jacobs has repeatedly denied that he sexually harassed anyone when he worked as one of Garcetti’s top aides and political advisors, claims that became public in 2020 in a lawsuit filed by a former member of the mayor’s LAPD security detail.
Garcetti has said he knew nothing of the accusations by Officer Matthew Garza, and later others, until Garza’s lawsuit became public in July of 2020.
“There is nothing new here — and these false claims about the mayor are just as ridiculous now as they were when they were first made,” a statement from Garcetti’s office said. “The mayor stands by his testimony unequivocally, and more than a dozen witnesses have testified under oath that he was never made aware of any improper behavior.”
The standards for filing a felony perjury charge are extremely exacting, making it unlikely that prosecutors would lodge a case against Garcetti, said Laurie Levenson, a Loyola Law School professor and expert on criminal law and procedure. The attempt to block Garcetti’s ambassadorial appointment would also tend to make prosecutors shy away from a case that seems more suited to a political resolution, Levenson said.
“It’s an uphill battle for them to charge perjury,” Levenson said. “It may or may not be that he lied, but proving that beyond a reasonable doubt is another matter.”
President Biden nominated Garcetti last July to the India post. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the nomination in January, after only one senator asked a question about the Jacobs matter.
Most political observers expect Garcetti to be confirmed by the full Senate in the coming months, meaning he would leave City Hall before his second term ends in December.
The letter from Seligman’s lawyers provides no new evidence but summarizes what has emerged over several months in media accounts and through the release of depositions in the Garza lawsuit.
Seligman, Garcetti’s onetime director of communications, first went public with her complaints about Jacobs and the mayor in a December article in New York magazine. She described an incident in which she alleged Jacobs burst into her office at City Hall in 2016 and grabbed her and forcibly kissed her for a “long, uncomfortable period of time” as her staff looked on.
That incident is recounted again in the letter from Seligman’s lawyers at Whistleblower Aid, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit legal organization.
The letter says that Seligman took her complaint to the mayor’s chief of staff, Ana Guerrero, but that Guerrero “told Ms. Seligman that no complaints would be tolerated because Mr. Jacobs was important to the mayor.”
Guerrero said in a deposition in the Garza lawsuit that she didn’t see any inappropriate behavior by Jacobs and only became aware of complaints about the advisor shortly before the LAPD officer filed his lawsuit.
Seligman’s letter details other instances in which people in and around City Hall complained about Jacobs’ behavior. Many of the complaints were lodged in the media and others in sworn depositions as part of the LAPD officer’s lawsuit.
The letter provides granular detail about others who said they saw inappropriate behavior by Jacobs.
They include journalist Yashar Ali and several current and former members of Garcetti’s staff: Julie Ciardullo, former chief counsel to the mayor; Henry Casas, who headed the office of public engagement; Suzi Emmerling, who succeeded Seligman as communications chief; and Alex Comisar, the mayor’s current chief spokesman. Both Ciardullo and Comisar said under oath they didn’t consider Jacobs’ actions to be sexual harassment.
Seligman left the mayor’s office in September of 2017, a little more than two years after being hired to head Garcetti’s communications efforts.
Her lawyers say in last week’s letter that her departure amounted to a “constructive discharge” because she had been “facing ongoing intimidation and harassment” and had been “stymied in three separate efforts to make lawful complaints of harassment.”