LOS ANGELES - Mayor Eric Garcetti's path to becoming U.S. ambassador to India hit a potential snag Thursday when a senior senator said he wants the confirmation vote delayed pending an investigation into whether the mayor knew about, and ignored, sexual harassment and assault allegations against his former senior advisor.
In a letter made available by Politico, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, "I will object (to Garcetti's nomination) because I have received numerous credible allegations from multiple whistleblowers alleging that Mr. Garcetti, while mayor of Los Angeles, had knowledge of sexual harassment and assaults allegedly committed against multiple city employees and their associates by his close advisor, and that he ignored the misconduct."
"...the United States owes it to the Republic of India to send them a qualified Ambassador that will represent the values of the United States. Mayor Garcetti may very well be fully qualified, but at this time, the Senate needs to look at these allegations further," he added.
In February, the nonprofit law firm Whistleblower Aid filed a complaint on behalf of Garcetti's former communications director accusing the mayor of perjury while he was questioned during his nomination hearing in the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the sexual harassment allegations against his former advisor, Rick Jacobs.
Jacobs was accused in a 2020 lawsuit filed by Los Angeles Police Department Officer Matthew Garza, who claims Garcetti witnessed the misconduct but turned a blind eye to it.
Garcetti has denied the allegations in the past — and did so again during his hearing, telling the Senate panel he has a "zero tolerance" policy for sexual harassment.
The mayor has previously claimed he didn't know about Garza's accusations at the time or until the lawsuit became public in July 2020.
- Biden nominates Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti as ambassador to India
- U.S. Senate committee confirms Mayor Garcetti's ambassadorial nomination
In response to Grassley's letter, the mayor's office said in a statement to City News Service Thursday afternoon:
"Repeating a malicious falsehood will never turn a lie into the truth. The Mayor has testified under oath multiple times, including before the U.S. Senate, and stands by his testimony unequivocally: he absolutely did not witness nor was he informed of any of the behavior being alleged. The Mayor has spent the better part of his life advocating aggressively on this issue, and had he been aware of any such behavior, he absolutely would have acted to stop it."
The White House stood by Garcetti in a statement to Politico, saying that the mayor "has been clear that he takes any allegations of harassment very seriously and has made clear this type of misconduct is unacceptable in his office in any form ... the president has confidence in Mayor Garcetti and believes he'll be an excellent representative in India."
The whistleblower complaint, filed on Feb. 2, alleges that Garcetti committed felony perjury on Feb. 8, 2021, during his deposition as part of the lawsuit, and on Dec. 14, 2021, when he told the Senate committee under oath that he "never witnessed nor was it brought to my attention the behavior that's being alleged."
The committee in January advanced the nomination, which needs to be confirmed by a majority of the U.S. Senate.
Whistleblower Aid filed the complaint on behalf of Naomi Seligman, a former director of communications for Garcetti who says she was forcibly kissed by Jacobs and that Garcetti knew about Jacobs' alleged pattern of harassment.
The complaint includes a previously reported on photo of Garcetti and Jacobs from 2017, in which Jacobs' hand is in front of another man's genital area.
"A picture is worth a thousand words," the complaint alleges. Garcetti, the letter notes, denies having seen Jacobs' hand's placement during the photo.
Seligman claims Jacobs sexually assaulted her in City Hall in April 2016 when he allegedly "forcefully grabbed her lower back, pinned her arms down, pressed himself against her, and held and kissed her for an extended amount of time," according to the complaint.
The document contends that Seligman notified the mayor's former chief of staff Ana Guerrero, who the complaint said "did not act surprised" and allegedly said that "no complaints would be tolerated because Mr. Jacobs was important to the mayor."
According to the complaint, in July 2016 the mayor emailed his staff from a personal account that Jacobs would be taking a leave of absence to work on civic and political matters, but that Jacobs "continues to be a dear friend, and one of (his) most trusted advisers."
The complaint notes several allegations against Jacobs, including one in 2017 in which the mayor was allegedly present. According to Seligman, the mayor's then-chief counsel Julie Ciardullo was in an elevator with Jacobs and Garcetti when "Jacobs blocked her into a corner and started pushing into her, back and forth, and she was asking, begging Jacobs to stop, and just kept pushing into her, pushing into her, and finally, the mayor had to intervene and tell him to get off of her."
That allegation was first reported in June 2021, when The Los Angeles Times obtained Ciardullo's deposition, which includes the allegation.
Tune in to FOX 11 Los Angeles for the latest Southern California news.