Attorneys for City Councilman Jose Huizar filed court papers Wednesday seeking copies of communications between his former special assistant and another ex-staffer who is suing the councilman and the city of Los Angeles for alleged illegal office practices.
The emails and text messages between 47-year-old Pauline Medina, Huizar’s former office manager, and George Esparza could shed a different light on Medina’s allegations that she was forced to quit in 2018 because conditions became unbearable after she spoke out, according to Huizar’s Los Angeles Superior Court papers.
“The documents are critical to determining the veracity of (Medina’s) claims, including whether the alleged conduct occurred, how (Medina) perceived it, whether others observed it and any admissions by her,” Huizar’s court papers state.
The text messages and emails could provide important evidence if they contradict Medina’s sworn testimony and that of other potential witnesses, including Esparza, according to Huizar’s court papers.
Medina alleges in her lawsuit filed in October 2018 that she complained to Huizar about his alleged use of city funds to pay for his personal expenses. She also alleges he gave preferential treatment to another staffer with whom he was having an extramarital affair.
She maintains she suffered a backlash when Huizar and his chief of staff, Paul Habib, made working there so intolerable that she quit in July 2018.
Medina further alleges that from the beginning, she “was often the sounding board for other staffers who came to her with their own frustrations about the office’s practices,” and that Huizar was “challenging to work for” and would chastise her and other office members for mistakes and oversights.
She alleges that she was required to enforce a new attendance policy the office began that frustrated her and her colleagues, ultimately causing her extreme anxiety.
Last August, Huizar served Medina with a request for productions of communications between Medina and Esparza, the suit states. Medina’s counsel did not produce the information and on Jan. 28 said his client “does not have any communications but is still looking,” according to the lawsuit.
“Despite this representation, (Medina) has not produced any … communications, nor has she served written responses confirming that she has conducted a reasonable search … and that no responsive documents exist,” according to Huizar’s court papers.
When Medina’s lawyer complained the requests were ” overbroad,” the councilman agreed to limit the requests to 2017-18, but to date Medina has not turned over the information, according to Huizar’s attorneys.
Instead of providing substantive responses and producing the requested communications, Medina has responded “with a laundry list of meritless and boilerplate objections,” Huizar’s filing alleges.
Huizar’s court papers also ask that Medina be fined $2,660 to compensate the councilman for the attorneys’ fees and filing costs for bringing the motion, which is scheduled to be heard June 4 by Judge Ruth Ann Kwan.