Los Angeles Times

Garcetti starts new chapter as fallout remains

Ex-mayor’s career moves forward, but allegation­s that stalled confirmati­on linger.

- By Dakota Smith and James Rainey

Eric Garcetti is onto his next political chapter.

The former Los Angeles mayor was confirmed Wednesday as U.S. ambassador to India following months of speculatio­n over whether Garcetti knew or should have known about a former top aide’s alleged sexual harassment of colleagues.

The U.S. Senate’s 52-42 approval gives the longtime politician the opportunit­y to relaunch his career overseas, although the harassment allegation­s that dogged his office — and the emotional fallout— are far from resolved.

A trial is scheduled for later this year in a case brought by a Los Angeles police officer who alleges he was subjected to crude sexual jokes and groped by Garcetti advisor Rick Jacobs. The advisor denies harassing anyone and Garcetti has said he didn’t witness the harassing behavior, as the officer alleges he did.

At the same time, the harassment allegation­s imploded once-tight relationsh­ips among a group that included Garcetti and his former top aides at City Hall.

In media interviews and deposition­s, some former Garcetti staff have blamed one another for not reporting Jacobs’ alleged misbehavio­r or for allegedly lying about what they saw. Others have accused one another of leaking informatio­n to the media.

Jessica Levinson, who teaches election law at Loyola Law School, said that she didn’t view the vote as a ref

erendum on Garcetti and the harassment allegation­s. Some senators likely were eager to fill the vacant post, she said.

“I don’t know if this is a vindicatio­n so much as it is a victory,” Levinson said. “He becoming an ambassador to India just means that there was the political will to move this nomination forward.”

Garcetti, in a statement, said that he was “thrilled” by Wednesday’s outcome, saying the ambassador post “has been vacant for far too long.”

The overseas position could ultimately open up more career possibilit­ies, including the office of California governor. Term limits will force out Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2026.

Garcetti’s close associates were quick to rattle off the names of former American diplomats who went on to win elected office or serve in other prominent roles in the government — including two former ambassador­s to India: the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (DN.Y.) and the late John Kenneth Galbraith, the renowned liberal economist who served under multiple Democratic presidents.

“It’s an amazing group of people who have been in this job before,” said Bill Carrick, the political consultant who helped Garcetti win the mayor’s seat in 2013. “So this is quite an extraordin­ary place to be.”

Sara Sadhwani, politics professor at Pomona College, suggested that the position is a good fit for Garcetti at this moment.

”This is a great job and a great place to go to repair and rebuild his brand, his reputation and also his stature, regardless of the direction that he might want to go in the future,” Sadhwani said.

A loss in the Senate would have been a significan­t blow to Garcetti personally and to any future aspiration­s he may still hold to return to elective office, said Fernando Guerra, director of the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University.

Guerra said that Garcetti can “take a kind of sabbatical from electoral politics but he can still remain in the game for the longer run with this kind of high-profile appointmen­t.”

Guerra said that he did not believe that the Senate’s protracted delay in approving Garcetti would have any long-term political consequenc­es.

“No one will remember that it took so long; just that he was approved,” Guerra said.

Greg Smith, an attorney for Matt Garza, the LAPD officer suing the city over Jacobs’ alleged behavior, declined to comment on Garcetti’s confirmati­on.

Jacobs, in his deposition, conceded he may have hugged Garza and made sexual jokes in front of the mayor’s security detail team. At least two men who worked in Garcetti’s office also gave deposition testimony in which they said they were subjected to unwanted touching from Jacobs.

Other Garcetti staffers have described being frozen out by colleagues after giving deposition testimony. Some told The Times that former co-workers blocked them on social media.

“People who I considered good friends, people with whom I had discussed Jacobs’ behavior, never spoke with me again the moment my deposition came out,” Suzi Emmerling, a former Garceti staffer, said in an interview this week.

Emmerling, in her deposition, also said that Garcetti’s wife, Amy Wakeland, threatened to refuse money from Emmerling’s then-employer, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, for city-backed philanthro­py work because Wakeland thought Emmerling was talking to people about the allegation­s.

“That story is 100% made up. I was never part of any such conversati­on,” Wakeland told the Times on Wednesday.

Naomi Seligman, Garcetti’s former communicat­ions director, also alleged that she encountere­d a “Mafia”-like culture that rewarded silence in Garcetti’s office. She said she was told by other staff that the mayor protected Jacobs.

She called Wednesday’s confirmati­on vote “heartbreak­ing” for victims and whistleblo­wers.

Seligman, who works at the nonprofit legal group Whistleblo­wer Aid, had led the charge to quash the nomination, meeting with Senate offices and alleging that Garcetti and others were covering up the truth of what happened.

But others in the mayor’s office questioned her credibilit­y, saying they did not witness a key incident in which she said Jacobs had forcibly kissed her on the mouth in full view of her staff.

A jury verdict in the Garza case — if the case isn’t settled beforehand — won’t put to rest all the allegation­s, said Levinson.

“There were so many more fingers that were pointed and accusation­s that were made,” Levinson said.

Sadhwani said many voters will mostly remember that Garcetti was mayor of L.A. and then ambassador and focus less on the sexual harassment furor that beset his office.

But she said the controvers­y would continue to crop up in news articles in any future run for office.

‘No one will remember that it took so long.’

— Fernando Guerra, director of the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University, on Garcetti’s confirmati­on

 ?? Damian Dovarganes Associated Press ?? ERIC GARCETTI, shown at the December swearing-in of Mayor Karen Bass, has consistent­ly denied that he witnessed alleged harassing behavior by a key advisor. Garcetti was confirmed as the ambassador to India.
Damian Dovarganes Associated Press ERIC GARCETTI, shown at the December swearing-in of Mayor Karen Bass, has consistent­ly denied that he witnessed alleged harassing behavior by a key advisor. Garcetti was confirmed as the ambassador to India.

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