Garcetti, in Senate hearing, denies witnessing sexual harassment by former top adviser Rick Jacobs

WASHINGTON (KABC) -- Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told U.S. senators considering his nomination to be ambassador to India that he never witnessed a former top adviser sexually harass one of his police bodyguards, allegations that are at the center of a lawsuit filed against his administration.

The mayor's statement Tuesday came during questioning from members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which held a hearing in Washington to consider Garcetti's nomination. Garcetti was nominated for one of the country's highest profile diplomatic posts in July by President Joe Biden.

"I have read with some concern accusations that one of your advisors engaged in a pattern of sexual harassment while employed for you and that you did not respond to those allegations in a way that would have stopped the behavior," said Jeanne Shaheen, a Democratic senator from New Hampshire who serves on the committee.
Under oath, Garcetti responded: "I want to say unequivocally that I never witnessed nor was it brought to my attention the behavior that's been alleged and I also want to assure that if it had been, I would have immediately taken action to stop that."

If confirmed, he said combatting sexual harassment and assault would be core issues for him.

The mayor said "persistent action" was needed to support and protect victims. He emphasized that as mayor, he established policies to centralize complaints and permit victims to submit reports of alleged abuse anonymously.

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"Harassment and discrimination have no place in the workplace, no place in our society. I have zero tolerance for that. And I also know that words are not enough," he said.

A former member of the mayor's security detail, LAPD Officer Matthew Garza, sued the city in July of last year. Garza alleged that Jacobs sexually harassed him in front of Garcetti and that the mayor did not intervene. Naomi Seligman, Garcetti's former communications director, who has accused Jacobs of grabbing her and kissing her on the lips in 2016, watched the Senate hearing from Los Angeles and accused the mayor of not being truthful.

"I saw the mayor witness Rick Jacobs outside of his office grabbing the mayor's protective detail," said Seligman. "I saw him while Rick said unacceptable things to men and women."

Seligman said she was disappointed that senators weren't tougher on Garcetti, asking only one sexual harassment-related question and moving on.

"His judgement and his actions make him unfit to be ambassador to India," said Seligman. "It is a country with some of the greatest gender violence in the world."

"The fact that the hearing was very short and to the point indicates they don't have a problem with Eric Garcetti, OK.," said Fernando Guerra, a professor at Loyola Marymount University who serves as director for the study of Los Angeles. "So I fully expect that the committee will approve him and the full senate will approve him. It's all about delaying for partisan Washington, D.C. politics."

It's unclear when the full Senate will vote on Garcetti's nomination. Garza's trial was originally set to begin in January, but that date been pushed back.
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