An independent panel to investigate complaints lodged by city employees against the city's elected officials will be convened for only the fifth time in what appears to be an effort to probe sexual harassment allegations against Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar.
Council President Herb Wesson confirmed that he moved last week to convene the panel, though he declined to say which of the city's 18 elected officials is the target.
The Times reported Monday that a woman who was until recently served as Huizar's deputy chief of staff has filed a workplace discrimination and sexual harassment complaint against the city and her former boss, according to information from the state agency that receives such complaints.
Fahizah Alim, spokeswoman for the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, confirmed that a complaint was filed June 7 against Huizar by Francine Godoy, who left his office four months ago. The complaint, also filed against the city of Los Angeles, preserves Godoy's right to sue in the future.
In the June 7 document, the complainant said she experienced discrimination, harassment and retaliation because of her gender and her "refusal to engage in sex."
"I was subjected to sexual harassment [quid pro quo and hostile work environment] and retaliated against when I refused advances," the complaint states.
Huizar spokesman Rick Coca said in an email that the councilman "strongly and emphatically denies the assertions made in the claim sent to the city and intends to fully cooperate with the city in any investigation of this matter." Coca also said Huizar was "surprised" by the 2-month-old complaint.
The five-member special committee is composed of two law professors, one male and one female; two former judges, one male and one female; and a member of the American Arbitration Assn. Both law professors must have experience in employment law, according to the city's rules.
The panel is convened to determine whether the charges have merit and whether an investigator should be named.