Embattled City Councilman José Huizar on Tuesday night found a way to escape the glare of reports over an intra-office affair and the rising cost of his Downtown streetcar: He kicked off his 2015 re-election bid.
Hundreds of people showed up at the Spring Street nightclub Exchange L.A. for a fundraiser for the 14th District councilman’s third four-year term. The invitation, which requested donations of $250 to $700, listed Council President Herb Wesson as a “special guest.”
Mariachis played in the hallway at the 6 p.m. event as supporters milled about the cavernous bar. Overhead were swirling and flashing colored lights. A DJ spun heavy bass beats, and a huge “Jose Huizar 2015” sign hung next to a photo slideshow of Huizar and his constituents.
The event came five days after Huizar’s former deputy chief of staff Francine Godoy sued the councilman and the city, claiming Huizar engaged in a “campaign of sexual harassment and retaliation” Hours after the suit was filed, Huizar acknowledged an “occasional and consensual relationship” with Godoy, though he denied any harassment.
According to the lawsuit, Godoy wanted to run for a seat on the Community College Board of Trustees, and Huizar’s support of her campaign was contingent upon her having sex with him. After she refused, the complaint says, Godoy was told that she should no longer show up at the office, and instead work from home. Her assignments and duties were cut significantly.
Godoy eventually left Huizar’s office and took a position with the Bureau of Sanitation.
Huizar has also seen costs for his proposed Downtown streetcar soar. The project long touted as a $125 million endeavor may end up costing more than $300 million, according to a Los Angeles Times report.
Outside the Exchange on Tuesday, Maria Elena Durazo, the executive secretary-treasurer of the powerful Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, told reporters that she’s not in a position to say whether Huizar is guilty of sexual harassment. There is a process that will determine the outcome, she said.
“He’s been very good to the working people; he has really stood up for good jobs and that is what we, as a labor movement, are all about,” Durazo said while waiting for a valet to bring her car. “So unless and until something happens around those allegations, we are going to stand with Councilman Huizar.”
Also outside the private event, Carol Schatz, president and CEO of the Central City Association, categorized Huizar’s lawsuit and affair admission as “personal issues.” She pointed out that during his tenure on the council he has had many positive effects on Los Angeles.
The primary election is in March 2015.
© Los Angeles Downtown News 2013