Rick Jacobs, a top political aide to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced he will be taking a leave from his nonprofit and political engagements after a second person came forward with sexual misconduct allegations against him.
“For the past 17 years, I have dedicated myself to advocacy and public service. I do not want this to be a distraction.Therefore, I will take a leave from my non-profit work and my volunteer political work with the Mayor,” Jacobs said in an emailed statement to the Los Angeles Times on Oct. 20.
The statement follows allegations made on Monday evening by freelance journalist Yashar Ali, who wrote in a first-person article that Jacobs “used to forcibly kiss me on the lips” when Ali encountered Jacobs through his previous work in politics from 2005 to 2015.
“Jacobs would grab my face and kiss me on the lips—always twice—and he would turn to other people who witnessed it and say, ‘He has the softest lips’” Ali wrote.
Garcetti also issued a statement to the Los Angeles Times Tuesday night:
“I take seriously all allegations of harassment. Rick Jacobs has stepped away from his non-profit and volunteer political work,” Garcetti said.
Garcetti, like Jacobs, is Jewish, and has enjoyed strong backing from the Jewish community.
Jacobs, longtime political advisor and close friend of many years to Garcetti, was also accused of sexual harassment earlier this year when a 23-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department, Officer Matthew Garza, filed a lawsuit against the city. Garza, who worked on Mayor Garcetti’s security detail, alleged that Jacobs repeatedly harassed him and made crude sexual comments while the mayor looked the other way.
“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,” the suit alleges.
A Garcetti spokesperson issued a response saying the mayor “has zero tolerance for sexual harassment and unequivocally did not witness the behavior that Officer Garza alleges.”
After hearing of Garza’s suit, Ali immediately contacted one of Garcetti’s top aides to share his experience, hoping that action would be taken on Garza’s complaint. But after hearing his allegations, Ali said no one from Garcetti’s office contacted him to follow up. Ali reached out again prior to publishing his article and received a similar general statement from Garcetti’s office.
Ali also wrote that multiple sources he spoke with, prior to publishing his own allegations, had shared similar experiences about their encounters with Jacobs — some sources saying that said Garcetti would observe Jacob’s behavior and “laugh it off.”
“Sources I spoke to told me that some of Jacobs’ alleged harassment and assault had been dismissed in a similar fashion by people in Garcetti’s circle—that his behavior was ‘just how gay men behaved,’” Ali wrote.
Jacobs is widely known as one of the mayor’s closest confidants and advocates. During Garcetti’s 2013 mayoral campaign, Jacobs formed an independent pro-Garcetti committee that raised upwards of two million dollars, subsequently earning him the position of deputy chief of staff for Garcetti’s first mayoral term. Although Jacobs is not currently a city employee and does not hold an official title in the mayor’s office, he currently serves on the board of directors of the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles.
While Garcetti has remained silent about the allegations against his top aide over the summer- aside from the general statement issued by his spokesperson- he has been serving as a co-chair for the Joe Biden campaign. Various outlets have speculated that Garcetti could be named to a high position within a future Biden administration based both on his relationship with the campaign and his previously-expressed White House aspirations.
After receiving Garcetti and Jacob’s statements, Yashar took to twitter to share his thoughts:
“This is only happening because I wrote a story. This is not a compliment…it should not have taken my writing a story for @ericgarcetti to take this step.”
Neither Jacobs nor Garcetti have responded to direct requests made by the Forward.