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Testimony: Garcetti’s aide said mayor’s adviser “hit” him

For much of the past year, spokesperson for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has responded to allegations that a high-level adviser had engaged in sexual harassment and that senior officials in the office of the mayor had done nothing about it.

Deputy director of communications Alex Comisar told reporters Garcetti had “zero tolerance” for harassment. At one point last fall, Comisar said neither the city nor the mayor had been made aware of allegations of harassment involving Jacobs.

Now two former Garcetti staff have testified in separate and sworn depositions that Comisar himself complained about the behavior of the mayor’s adviser, Rick Jacobs. One of these former staff produced Comisar text messages.

Comisar declined to comment on the statements and texts attributed to him. Garcetti’s office has not confirmed that the staff member mentioned in both depositions was Comisar, claiming that person’s identity is protected by a confidentiality agreement.

“In addition, the employee denies having suffered sexual harassment,” the town hall said.

In a deposition last month, Garcetti’s former assistant Suzi Emmerling said Comisar had informed her that he had been touched by Jacobs. The testimony was reviewed this week by The Times.

“He told me that Rick – I mean touched him, his leg under the table or something,” Emmerling said in the deposition. Emmerling, who was Comisar’s supervisor, said the event occurred between 2017 and 2019 and that she did not remember the location.

Naomi Seligman, who also worked as a director of communications and was at one point the boss of Comisar, said in her own testimony that she also heard from Comisar about Jacobs’ behavior. “I got picked on by Rick again,” Comisar wrote in the text to Seligman, a copy of which was reviewed by The Times.

“Vile,” replied Seligman.

When Seligman’s testimony became public two weeks ago, Comisar’s name was redacted. Since then, two sources have confirmed to The Times that he is the anonymous mayor’s employee who sent the message discussed by Seligman. Garcetti’s office declined to comment on whether key statements in both depositions are correct.

The mayor’s main spokesperson

Emmerling made his claims in a case filed by LAPD officer Matthew Garza, a former member of Garcetti’s security services, against the town. Garza accused Jacobs, who worked as Garcetti’s deputy chief of staff and later as his political adviser, of making rude remarks and touching him inappropriately.

The constant stream of depositions comes at a sensitive time for Garcetti, who is awaiting confirmation as President Biden’s candidate to become ambassador to India. They also raise questions about the communications strategy Garcetti used to respond to Garza’s allegations.

Jacobs, for his part, has denied sexually harassing anyone. Garcetti’s former adviser said in a statement that he may have hugged Garza and made sexual jokes in front of the security service.

Jacobs’ lawyers say Comisar’s own testimony, given in May, contradicts the idea that he was sexually harassed.

“His collective testimony throughout the deposition makes it clear that he denied witnessing or being harassed, and that he did not complain of harassment,” said Ashleigh Kasper, attorney for Jacobs.

During his testimony, Comisar said he had “no direct understanding” of the validity of Garza’s claims. He also said he did not find it difficult to work with Jacobs.

When asked if he had ever complained to anyone about Jacobs, he replied, “Not that I remember. “

Comisar joined the mayor’s team in 2015 and is currently Garcetti’s main spokesperson in the mayor’s office.

Earlier this month, Garcetti declined to comment after The Times asked him whether it was appropriate for Comisar to address questions about Garza’s trial given he was mentioned in the case. The mayor also said he had not seen the text message reviewed by The Times.

Emmerling, who worked as Garcetti’s communications director from November 2017 to April 2019, testified that she had not seen Jacobs behave in a sexually inappropriate manner herself. She admitted that she had not made an anonymous complaint to City Hall about the allegations she had received.

“Since this lawsuit was filed, I have really struggled with the fact that I did nothing,” she said.

Exchanging SMS

As part of her testimony, Emmerling also provided a copy of text messages she exchanged with current and former Garcetti staff about the Garza case. In an exchange, the group discussed a Times article about allegations made about Jacobs by former Garcetti staff member Henry Casas.

Garcetti’s assistant Sumi Parekh sent the others a snippet of the story in which Casas said it was “common knowledge” inside the mayor’s office that Jacobs had engaged in behavior inappropriate towards male employees. “I mean… he’s not wrong,” Parekh wrote.

Another former Garcetti staff member, Anna Bahr, replied “He’s absolutely right! According to the text exchange.

Bahr, who then worked as a spokesperson for Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, declined to comment. Parekh did not respond to questions from The Times.

Emmerling said Bahr and two other former Garcetti staff told him after the complaint was filed against Garza that they too had been the victims of inappropriate behavior by Jacobs. One of those former staff was not surprised to learn of the lawsuit alleging inappropriate behavior by Jacobs, Emmerling said.

“He said, ‘You mean, can I believe the man who groped me all the time at town hall is finally being sued for this?’ Yeah, I can, ”Emmerling said.

This staff member did not immediately respond to calls from The Times for comment.

Kasper, Jacobs’ attorney, did not immediately comment on the allegation groped. But she said one of the other former employees mentioned by Emmerling has previously denied being sexually harassed during her own testimony.

” Finally arrived “

Garza filed his lawsuit in July 2020 and Comisar became the person to answer questions about the allegations.

Seligman, her former boss, later said she received a text from Comisar the day the news broke. Although Comisar’s name was redacted in the deposition, two sources identified him as the author of the message.

“Looks like it’s finally happening with Rick,” the message read.

When asked about the text, Seligman said she understood the post to mean “years of Rick’s harassment and abuse were going to be on display.”

Neither Comisar nor the mayor’s office responded to questions on the text message on Wednesday. When Garza initially filed his complaint, Comisar told The Times that the mayor had “unequivocally” seen any of the behavior Garza alleged.

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