Garcetti gets his job in India, but the fallout from the scandal remains

Eric Garcetti is on his next political chapter.

The former mayor of Los Angeles was confirmed as US ambassador to India on Wednesday after months of speculation over whether Garcetti knew or should have known of the alleged sexual harassment of his colleagues by a former senior official.

The US Senate’s 52-42 approval gives the longtime politician the chance to relaunch his career overseas, though the harassment allegations that have weighed on his desk – and the emotional fallout – are far from over. resolved.

A trial is scheduled for later this year in a case brought by a Los Angeles police officer who alleges he was the victim of crude sex jokes and groped by Garcetti’s adviser, Rick Jacobs. The counselor denies harassing anyone, and Garcetti said he did not witness the harassing behavior, contrary to what the officer claims.

At the same time, the harassment allegations imploded once-close relationships among a group that included Garcetti and his former top aides at City Hall.

In media interviews and depositions, some former Garcetti staffers have blamed themselves for not reporting Jacobs’ alleged misconduct or for allegedly lying about what they saw. Others accused each other of leaking information to the media.

Jessica Levinson, who teaches electoral law at Loyola Law School, said she did not see the vote as a referendum on Garcetti and the harassment allegations. Some senators were likely eager to fill the vacancy, she said.

“I don’t know if that’s as much vindication as victory,” Levinson said. “Having him become ambassador to India just means that there was the political will to move forward with this appointment.”

Garcetti, in a statement, said he was “delighted” with Wednesday’s result, saying the ambassadorship “has been vacant for too long.”

The post abroad could ultimately open up more career opportunities, including the governorship of California. Term limits will force Governor Gavin Newsom out in 2026.

Garcetti’s close aides were quick to rattle off the names of former US diplomats who went on to be elected or held other senior government positions, including two former ambassadors to India: the late US Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (DN.Y.) and the late John Kenneth Galbraith, the famous liberal economist who served under several Democratic presidents.

“It’s an incredible group of people who have been in this position before,” said Bill Carrick, the political consultant who helped Garcetti win the mayoral seat in 2013. “So it’s a pretty amazing place.”

Sara Sadhwani, a politics professor at Pomona College, suggested the job is a good fit for Garcetti right now.

“It’s a great job and a great place to go to repair and rebuild his brand, his reputation and also his stature in whatever direction he might want to go in the future,” Sadhwani said.

A loss in the Senate would have been a blow to Garcetti personally and to any future aspirations he may still have to return to elective office, said Fernando Guerra, director of the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola University. Marymount.

Guerra said Garcetti can “take a kind of sabbatical from electoral politics, but he can still stay in the game for the longer term with this kind of high profile appointment.”

Guerra said he did not believe the Senate’s prolonged delay in approving Garcetti would have any long-term political consequences.

“Nobody will remember that it took so long; just that it was approved,” Guerra said.

Greg Smith, an attorney for Matt Garza, the LAPD officer suing the city over Jacobs’ alleged behavior, declined to comment on Garcetti’s confirmation on Wednesday.

Jacobs, in his deposition, admitted that he may have kissed Garza and made sex jokes in front of the mayor’s security team. At least two men who worked in Garcetti’s office also testified in a deposition in which they said they were subjected to unwanted touching by Jacobs.

Other Garcetti staffers have described being frozen by colleagues after testifying. Some told The Times that former colleagues had blocked them on social media.

“People I considered good friends, people I had discussed Jacobs’ behavior with, never spoke to me again by the time my deposition came out,” said Suzi Emmerling, a former Garceti employee. , in an interview this week.

Emmerling, in his deposition, also said that Garcetti’s wife, Amy Wakeland, threatened to withhold money from Emmerling’s employer at the time, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, for sustained philanthropic work. by the city because Wakeland thought Emmerling was telling people about the allegations.

“This story is 100% made up. I’ve never been part of such a conversation,” Wakeland told The Times on Wednesday.

Naomi Seligman, Garcetti’s former communications director, also alleged that she encountered a “mafia”-like culture that rewarded silence in Garcetti’s office. She said other staff members told her the mayor was protecting Jacobs.

She called Wednesday’s confirmation vote “heartbreaking” for victims and whistleblowers.

Seligman, who works for the nonprofit legal group Whistleblower Aid, had led the charge to overturn the nomination, meeting with Senate offices and alleging that Garcetti and others were covering up the truth about what happened.

But other members of the mayor’s office questioned her credibility, saying they did not witness a key incident in which she said Jacobs force-kissed her on the mouth at the view of its staff.

A jury verdict in Garza’s case — if the case isn’t settled ahead of time — won’t end all of the allegations, Levinson said.

“There were so many more fingers that were pointed and accusations that were made,” Levinson said.

Sadhwani said many voters will mostly remember Garcetti as mayor of Los Angeles and then ambassador and focus less on the sexual harassment furor that beset his office.

But she said controversy would continue to surface in news reports in any future election race and she predicted naysayers would resurface a photo in which Garcetti stood next to Jacobs and gave a thumbs-up as his assistant held his hand on another man’s crotch. .

“It’s very damning for the future as the images are easily used in campaign material,” she said. (Garcetti said he didn’t see Jacobs’ gesture at the time.)

Sadhwani, who is Native American, said the inability to fill the ambassadorship was a sore spot in India, which celebrated 75 years of independence from Britain last year. She said it was important someone brought “all their passion” to the job.

When asked if she thought Garcetti would be that person, Sadhwani replied, “I think he has a passion for justice, a real concern for fairness. These are important qualities to bring as an ambassador to any country, aren’t they? »

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