A former deputy chief of staff to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Tuesday he will “take a leave” from his nonprofit work and volunteer political activities for the mayor in response to renewed allegations of sexual harassment and assault.
“For the past 17 years, I have dedicated myself to advocacy and public service,” Rick Jacobs said in an email provided to City News 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.”
The latest accusation against Jacobs was made Monday by Yashar Ali, a former deputy chief of staff to Gavin Newsom when he was mayor of San Francisco. 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.
“I take seriously all allegations of harassment,” Garcetti stated to CNS Tuesday night. “Rick Jacobs has stepped away from his nonprofit and volunteer political work.”
In a lengthy article posted to his online newsletter Monday night, Ali said he came forward after what he described as months of inactivity from the mayor’s office following a lawsuit filed against Jacobs earlier this year by Officer Matthew 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 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.”
Ali said he never felt unsafe when Jacobs kissed him, but he urged him to be honest about the allegations from Garza and “deal with it. Denials won’t help you if the allegations are true.”
Jacobs texted him back “Nothing at all is true. Nothing. It’s fabricated.”
Ali said he reached out 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) towards 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 me my strong LAPD officers’ or some other inappropriate comment.”
The suit also contends, “Mayor Garcetti was present on approximately half of the occasions when Jacobs behaved in this way, and witnessed Jacobs’ conduct, but he took no action to correct Jacobs’ obviously harassing behavior.”
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.
Jacobs, in a statement earlier this year, vehemently denied any wrongdoing, saying, “This lawsuit is a work of pure fiction, and is out of left field. Officer Garza and I worked together for many years without incident. I will vigorously defend myself, my character and my reputation.”
Jacobs has not served in an official capacity in the mayor’s office since 2016, but, according to sources Ali spoke with, still is considered the mayor’s top adviser.
Jacobs is CEO of Accelerator for America, which, according to its website, “finds and develops solutions to economic insecurity and shares them with cities to create national change from the ground up. We are led by an Advisory Council comprising mayors, labor leaders, corporate CEOs and nonprofit executives from across the country, and our work is driven by an exceptional staff.”
Jacobs is also the founder of Courage Campaign, which claims to be “Fighting for a more progressive California and country,” according to its website.