Witness contradicts Garcetti in sexual harassment lawsuit

The former head of the nonprofit Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles has testified that he heard Mayor Eric Garcetti express surprise that the city hadn’t been sued over his longtime aide Rick Jacobs, who is now accused of sexual harassment.

Jeremy Bernard, in a March deposition, said he heard Garcetti talk about Jacobs, the mayor’s former deputy chief of staff. Garcetti made a remark to the effect of, “I can’t believe Rick worked out at City Hall and that we got through it without a lawsuit,” according to Bernard’s testimony.

“I don’t remember the exact words,” Bernard testified. “He did make that comment. And I believe there was — to a couple — there might have been a couple of us he had said that to because I’ve heard that from others.”

Bernard’s testimony contradicts what the mayor said in his deposition earlier this year. Garcetti was asked if he made such a statement and the mayor replied that he did not.

In the deposition, which was reviewed by The Times on Wednesday, Bernard said he did not see Jacobs act in an improper way in social settings or fundraisers from about 2014 to 2018 — a time period highlighted by attorneys taking his testimony.

Nor did Bernard hear city employees complain about Jacobs’ behavior, he said.

Matthew Garza, a Los Angeles police officer and former bodyguard for Garcetti, sued the city last summer, alleging that he was sexually harassed by Jacobs. The mayor witnessed some of the inappropriate behavior but did not stop it, according to Garza’s lawsuit.

Both Jacobs and Garcetti deny the allegations against them.

Bernard formerly served as social secretary and special assistant to President Obama.

He testified in his deposition that he first met Jacobs in the early 2000s. “I would say there was a time he was one of my best friends,” Bernard said. He met Garcetti around 2006 and helped introduce him to then-Sen. Obama, Bernard testified.

Bernard, during his deposition, was asked whether Garcetti had made a comment about being surprised that Jacobs worked at City Hall and the city hadn’t been sued.

Bernard said he heard the mayor make the comment, but Garcetti did not explain what he meant by the remark.

He also said he did not know where he heard Garcetti make the comment but said it would have occurred around 2017. He said he believed he heard other people also talk about Garcetti making that remark, but he couldn’t remember who they were.

“I just remember that the conversation — and it kind of being like Rick didn’t get along great with people down at City Hall overall,” Bernard testified.

Garcetti, in testimony taken during his deposition earlier this year, denied making such a statement.

“Have you ever said to anybody, ‘I can’t believe Rick worked out at City Hall and we got through without a lawsuit?’” Garcetti was asked by Garza’s attorneys during his deposition.

“No,” Garcetti replied. “I have never said that to anybody, publicly or private.”

“I stand by my testimony unequivocally,” Garcetti said Wednesday when asked about Bernard’s remarks.

The mayor is expected to be named U.S. ambassador to India by President Biden.

Garza alleges in his lawsuit that Jacobs touched him inappropriately between 2014 and 2019 and made crude comments.

Jacobs has denied that he harassed Garza and called his lawsuit “a work of pure fiction.” Garcetti testified in his deposition that he did not witness any inappropriate behavior by his former aide.

Garza alleges Jacobs would extend his hand for a purported handshake, but then pull Garza toward 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.

Bernard said he witnessed Jacobs pulling in people for hugs after extending his hand. “It was somewhat his style. I didn’t think a great deal about it,” Bernard said.

Bernard also said that he didn’t know Garza and wouldn’t recognize him.

Bernard testified that he didn’t see Jacobs kiss anyone in a way that “that stood out” as strange and that Jacobs never touched him in a nonconsensual way.

At another point, Bernard said, “I’m sure that there might have been a time he grabbed me and kissed me. Because we were close friends, I didn’t overly analyze it, I guess.”

Bernard, who left the Mayor’s Fund in 2020, said he doesn’t consider himself to be friends with Jacobs today. He said that Jacobs helped him get the position at the Mayor’s Fund. He said he hasn’t talked to him since around the time he was let go from the nonprofit.

Several other current or former Garcetti staffers also have given depositions in the Garza lawsuit. One testified that he was subject to unwanted touching by Jacobs. Others have testified that they didn’t see anything improper.




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