One Year Ago Today (November 20, 2020)…A photograph showing Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s former Deputy Chief of Staff Rick Jacobs making a sexually provocative gesture while Garcetti posed nearby with others at a conference in Miami was published.
The picture was obtained by the Los Angeles Times and shows Jacobs placing an open hand near the crotch of a civic activist at the U.S. Conference of Mayors convention in June 2017.
Garcetti is next to the activist, smiling and giving two thumbs-up. The activist was not named by The Times because he may have been a victim of sexual misconduct.
In a statement to The Times, Garcetti called Jacobs’ actions in the photo “totally inappropriate” and denied seeing the photo before it was sent to his office by the paper this week.
“Jacobs no longer represents me in any capacity and has not worked in the Mayor’s Office since 2016,” the statement said.” We have now sent this photo to the independent law firm hired by the city attorney.”
Others in the photo were identified by The Times as Heather Repenning, a former Garcetti aide, then a vice president on the Board of Public Works and a recent candidate for the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education.
Also in the photo are Gerard Orozco, a former City Council aide, and Josh Perttula, the founder of a prominent public affairs firm in Los Angeles.
Perttula told The Times he didn’t know about Jacobs’ actions when the photo was taken and called his behavior “unacceptable and inappropriate.
Repenning and Orozco have not commented.
Jacobs told The Times in an email he could not “recall the circumstances of this photo” and he “would never intentionally `harass’ someone” and apologized to anyone he may have hurt.
On Oct. 28, Garcetti denied witnessing any alleged sexual misconduct or harassment by Jacobs, who has been accused by a few men, including Matthew Garza, a Los Angeles police officer who was a member of Garcetti’s security detail, and Yashar Ali, a former deputy chief of staff to Gavin Newsom when he was mayor of San Francisco.
“No, absolutely and categorically no,” Garcetti said when questioned by reporters about the allegations during a remote COVID-19 update.
Garcetti said it was a “mutual decision” that he and his longtime top adviser parted ways professionally.
“…But I did ask him to, right now, have us be separated,” Garcetti said, and that the decision was made based on “new information.”
The City Attorney’s Office has hired an outside law firm to investigate sexual misconduct allegations against Jacobs.
In late October, Jacobs agreed to temporarily step aside from his nonprofit work and political activities on behalf of Garcetti, faced additional sexual misconduct allegations from two more men who recently came forward.
The Times reported two men said they were targeted by Jacobs, one claiming he was groped by Jacobs at a party in 2012 and the other saying Jacobs tried to forcibly hug and kiss him at an event in Los Angeles last year.
Neither man provided his name for fear of reprisals, but according to The Times, both of their accounts were verified by friends who confirmed Jacobs’ actions.
The photo from 2017 was provided to The Times by an attorney for three former city employees who said in a statement to the paper the picture shows “years of grotesquely inappropriate predatory behavior that Mayor Garcetti tolerated and enabled, to the detriment of his staff and colleagues.”
Each of the employees declined to be named, fearing retaliation by Jacobs or others on the mayor’s staff, The Times reported.
Garcetti responded to the employees’ allegations by saying he has “never witnessed any sexual harassment by Rick Jacobs and I was not told about any allegation until the Garza lawsuit.”
“Neither my office nor the Personnel Department has ever received a sexual harassment complaint involving Mr. Jacobs,” Garcetti said.
“Had I been aware of any allegation, I would have taken action to address it. In my life, I have taken and always will take all forms of harassment extremely seriously.”