A former communications director for Mayor Eric Garcetti has testified that the mayor’s embattled ex-adviser Rick Jacobs kissed both the communications director and her husband on the lips without consent and that Jacobs’ behavior was known among Garcetti’s aides who failed to take action.
Jacobs is the subject of a Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleging that he subjected a Los Angeles Police Department officer to repeated acts of inappropriate conduct.
According to the Los Angeles Times, former communications director Naomi Seligman said in a deposition that Jacobs kissed her on the lips in 2016 in front of other staffers. She called the experience humiliating and said she complained about it to Garcetti’s chief of staff Ana Guerrero but no action was taken.
The Times reported on June 22 that Guerrero posted disparaging social media comments about civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, as well as insults and suggestive comments about city employees. Garcetti responded in a statement to the reporting that he asked Guerrero to step away from executive management responsibilities.
Seligman testified, in a deposition reviewed by The Times on Thursday, that Garcetti’s staffers made comments to her that she interpreted as saying she should remain silent about Jacobs’ actions. She also described a mafia-like culture and said Jacobs’ behavior was widely known, according to The Times.
“All of the top handpicked administration officials under Mayor Garcetti knew, discussed, and did nothing about the harassment and abuse that took place for years,” she said, according to The Times, which reported that Jacobs and his lawyers did not respond to requests for comment.
Garcetti’s office issued a statement on behalf of the mayor that said he, his chief of staff and senior aides did not witness the incidents Seligman described and “no mayor’s staff or former staff or anybody else has ever faced retaliation or intimidation for making any personnel complaints or offering testimony in this case.”
Guerrero told The Times that Seligman never reported harassment but told her about “conflicts” with Jacobs that she thought involved “differences in personality and work style.”
In June, The Times reported that Guerrero posted disparaging remarks in 2016 and 2017 on “Solid Gold” — an invitation-only Facebook group that includes several Garcetti staffers, appointees and supporters — about labor and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, 91, who co-founded the National Farmworkers Association with Cesar Chavez.
In the posts, which were reviewed by The Times, Guerrero called Huerta “Viejita envidiosa!” which means “Jealous old lady” in Spanish. She also commented “I hate her. You hate her” on a photo posted in 2016 of Huerta, Guerrero and three others.
Former Garcetti appointee Cecilia Cabello also commented “I can’t stand that old bag,” and former head of Los Angeles Office of Immigrant Affairs Linda Lopez reportedly commented, “Has been.”
Guerrero provided a statement of her own through Garcetti’s office on June 22.
“These comments were offensive and wrong, and I deeply regret making them,” Guerrero said. “There is no excuse — and to anyone who was the subject of these posts, I am deeply sorry for the pain they caused.”
She added, “I have always tried to lead in a way that empowers people to change their lives and communities by lifting each other up — so I also want to apologize to my colleagues at City Hall and anyone in my life who looks up to and depends on me to set an example for leadership.
“This experience and the embarrassment it has caused for me and others is a hard lesson about how this kind of behavior, whether in public or private, is unacceptable and can have profound consequences.”
According to The Times, Guerrero also posted suggestive comments about Director of Planning Vince Bertoni, hired by Garcetti in 2016.
“Kelli and I looked LONG and HARD for someone that might be easy on the eye,” she wrote as a Facebook comment on a 2010 photo of Bertoni wearing a wetsuit that was pulled down at his waist, The Times reported.
In the photo, Bertoni was holding a surfboard and was with family members at a beachfront memorial ceremony. Guerrero was likely referring to Kelli Bernard, who helped hire Bertoni when she worked as Garcetti’s deputy mayor of economic development. A spokesman for the Department of City Planning told The Times Bertoni was not aware of the comments about him.
The Times also reported that Guerrero posted insults about a former aide to Councilman Mike Bonin. Guerrero commented “Is he preggers?” on a photo of Bonin’s aide shirtless in front of a mirror. The photo was taken from the aide’s Facebook page and reposted on Solid Gold.
Guerrero also posted an emoji of a beast throwing up under an image of City Controller Ron Galperin, County Assessor Jeffrey Prang and others watching the 2016 Super Bowl on television, according to The Times.
The lawsuit against Jacobs was filed last July 13 by Los Angeles Police Department Officer Matthew Garza.
Garza alleges sex and gender harassment. According to Garza, from October 2013 until October 2019, he was assigned to the LAPD’s protection unit for the mayor. He says he was required to drive Garcetti to and from mayoral engagements and accompany him on out-of-town trips and that Jacobs often accompanied them.
Garza alleges Jacobs subjected him on “hundreds of occasions to unwanted and unwelcome sexual comments and touching,” including tight hugs and shoulder rubbing.
Asked during his deposition if he ever hugged Garza, Jacobs replied, “It’s possible.” And whether he believed it was consensual — “I had the impression, yes.”
Jacobs denied making comments in Garza’s presence concerning the size of male private parts or that he ever motioned the officer to sit on his lap.
Jacobs also testified that the mayor’s father, former District Attorney Gil Garcetti, alerted him in 2020 that he could be sued for sexual harassment.
Asked how he responded to Gil Garcetti, Jacobs said he was caught off guard.
“I was surprised about anybody on the security detail contemplating filing a lawsuit,” Jacobs said.
“In fact, I was surprised that anybody was filing a lawsuit … Because I had never done anything that constituted sexual harassment and nobody had ever raised any question.”