LAPD Officer Awarded $1.8 Million in Harassment Case Involving Garcetti Advisor

Deputy Chief of Staff to Mayor Eric Garcetti Rick Jacobs gives a speech at the annual Bastille Day reception in Beverly Hills

LAPD Officer Matthew Garza alleged harassment by Rick Jacobs, above, a onetime advisor to former Mayor Eric Garcetti. Jacobs denied the accusations. (Tasia Wells / Getty Images)

The Los Angeles City Council agreed Wednesday to pay $1.8 million to settle a lawsuit brought by a Los Angeles police officer who said he was sexually harassed by a high-level aide to former Mayor Eric Garcetti.

The council voted 13-0 to settle the 2020 lawsuit brought by LAPD Officer Matthew Garza, who served on Garcetti’s security detail and alleged that Rick Jacobs inappropriately hugged and touched him and made crude sexual comments over a period of several years.

The allegations gained national attention, launched an independent probe by a U.S. senator and dogged Garcetti as he sought to become President Biden’s ambassador to India.

Jacobs acknowledged in his deposition that he might have made sexual jokes in front of the security detail but denied harassing anyone.

Read more: Eric Garcetti led L.A. during profoundly turbulent times. How will history judge him?

“The city attempted to vilify Officer Garza when he spoke truth to power,” said Greg Smith, Garza’s attorney. “I applaud the 13 to 0 vote by the City Council, affirming the merit of this case. Enabling predators isn’t leadership — residents of Los Angeles deserved better.”

An attorney for Jacobs, who helped raise money for Garcetti’s 2013 campaign for mayor and helped guide his political career, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Garza’s lawsuit claimed Jacobs’ inappropriate behavior was witnessed by Garcetti and his wife, Amy Wakeland, which they both denied.

At least two other male city employees who worked under Garcetti gave deposition testimony in which they said that they received unwanted hugs, touches or sexual comments from Jacobs.

Another staffer told The Times that Jacobs’ harassing behavior was “something everyone talked about” in the mayor’s office.

The Times also interviewed two other men who claimed that they were groped by Jacobs.

A confidential memo by City Atty. Hydee Feldstein Soto’s office sent to council members in September recommended settling the case. The memo cited the “high likelihood of an adverse settlement and recovery of damages and attorney’s fees in excess of $5,000,000.”

The memo, among other issues, highlights a photo taken during the 2017 U.S. Conference of Mayors in Miami that shows Jacobs holding his hand over the crotch of another man. Garcetti stands nearby and gives a “thumbs up” post.

“The photo raises concerns about the mayor’s lack of awareness of Jacobs’ sexually inappropriate behavior,” the memo says.

The costs to taxpayers from the scandal extend beyond the $1.8-million payout. Records reviewed by The Times show that the city attorney’s office spent more than $276,000 on various expenses, including a therapist’s assessment of Garza and litigation experts.

The city attorney’s office also hired investigator Leslie Ellis to investigate the claims. Her report, which cost nearly $100,000, concluded that Garza wasn’t subjected to inappropriate behavior by Jacobs.

The allegations made by Garza were dismissed by some in the mayor’s inner circle, who suggested Garza was angry at the mayor for statements he made about police following George Floyd’s murder in 2020.

The scandal also consumed the final years of Garcetti’s time as mayor after Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) placed a hold on the mayor’s nomination to be ambassador to India and conducted an investigation that found that Garcetti “likely knew or should have known” about his aide’s alleged misconduct.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.


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