A Los Angeles police officer who served as a bodyguard for Mayor Eric Garcetti for seven years has sued the city, alleging that he was sexually harassed repeatedly by one of the mayor’s top advisors and that Garcetti witnessed some of the inappropriate behavior but did not stop it.
LAPD Officer Matthew Garza, who worked on the mayor’s security detail, alleged that longtime Garcetti consultant Rick Jacobs made crude sexual comments and touched him inappropriately over several years. The harassment took place on trips Garcetti took to Arizona, New Hampshire and elsewhere, the suit alleges.
In an emailed statement, Jacobs said, “This lawsuit is a work of pure fiction, and is out of left field. Officer Garza and I worked together for many years without incident. I will vigorously defend myself, my character and my reputation.”
Garcetti’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Garza, a sworn LAPD officer since 1997, began working on Garcetti’s security detail in October 2013, according to the lawsuit, filed Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court. The lawsuit alleges sex/gender harassment and the existence of a hostile work environment in violation of the California Fair Housing and Employment Act.
The harassment began around 2014 and continued until October 2019, except for a period beginning in mid-2016 when Jacobs was absent for unknown reasons, the lawsuit alleges.
Garza alleged that Jacobs would extend his hand for a purported handshake, but then pull Garza towards him to give a “long, tight hug,” while simultaneously saying, “I love me my strong LAPD officers” or some other “inappropriate comment,” according to the suit.
Jacobs also repeatedly talked about his young gay lover, his lover’s penis and having “rough sex” with his gay partners, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also alleges that “Garcetti was present on approximately half of the occasions when Jacobs behaved in this way, and witnessed Jacobs’ conduct, but he took no action to correct Jacobs’ obviously harassing behavior.”
Garza’s lawsuit says he traveled with the mayor’s team to Phoenix in March 2016 for a fundraiser. At one point, Garza entered a hotel bar where he spotted Jacobs, who motioned for Garza to come over and “sit on his lap,” according to the lawsuit.
In May 2018, Garza accompanied Jacobs and Garcetti to New Hampshire so the mayor could give a college commencement address, and as Garza was driving the group, Jacobs on several occasions massaged Garza’s shoulders from the backseat. Garcetti sat next to Jacobs, but didn’t stop the unwanted advances, the lawsuit alleged.
And on an October 2018 trip to Mississippi, the group stopped at a gas station. Jacobs pointed to some Magnum brand condoms and asked Garza if he wears Magnum large condoms, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also alleges that on “over a dozen occasions, both while Jacobs was employed by the city and after he left city employment, staffers in Mayor Garcetti’s office apologized to [Garza] for Jacobs’ harassing conduct.”
“Nevertheless, the mayor’s office never took any action to stop Jacobs’ harassment of [Garza],” the lawsuit states.
Garza refused to return to the mayor’s security detail last month because of Jacobs’ behavior, the lawsuit says. He lost wages and other benefits because he was no longer working the higher-paying assignment, his suit claims.
Jacobs raised millions of dollars in support of Garcetti’s 2013 mayoral campaign and was later given a top post in the mayor’s office before stepping down in 2016. He works on several Garcetti-backed initiatives, including the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles, a nonprofit.
The head of a Los Angeles County business organization accused Jacobs last year of threatening her group if its members opposed a tax measure supported by the mayor. Jacobs denied making the threat.
For his part, Garcetti has sought to position himself as a leader in combating sexual harassment at City Hall. Amid the national #MeToo movement in 2017, Garcetti ordered new reporting protocols, unveiled a city website for employees to lodge allegations and hosted a panel at the mayor’s official residence on sexual harassment and assault.
When asked at the time if his office had dealt with harassment allegations by employees, Garcetti indicated he didn’t know of any incidents.