MAILANDER’S LA-As is always the case with unlikely trysts, the timing is convenient to neither, and opportunists are waiting at the ready.
Francine Godoy, formerly a divisive figure on Councilman Jose Huizar's staff, is recently happily married, pregnant, due any day now, and making a sexual harassment claim arising from an affair of years ago anyway.
The man she has filed a sexual harassment charge against, Huizar, is married, has three children, has recently entered his youngest child into chemotherapy, and is up for re-election in seventeen months.
And while the charge and claims are very inconvenient to so many lives, some of them on the way, they are also very convenient--in fact, uncannily so--to Mayor Garcetti's cigar-chomping, divisive Chief of Staff, Ana Guerrero, who has long had her eyes on an opportunity such as a Council spot.
Truly, this should be a wonderful time for Francine Godoy, complainant and plaintiff, who between depositions is expected to deliver her first child at any moment, perhaps this weekend.
Why she has decided to bring charges against Huizar at this particular time remains a mystery to many--absent impacting the next Council race in March 2015. Francine, after all, is still very much a newlywed--she was married four months ago to a longtime civic taxi biz figure, Marco Andres Soto. She is alleging that Huizar wished to renew their affair last October, in exchange for support in a Community College Trustee race.
The new husband Soto moved into Godoy's house, which she bought four years ago. Though there were some things to overlook, such as Soto's two previous discharged bankruptcies, and a likely DUI arrest in San Diego County in 2008, the mid-thirties couple is otherwise starting anew in chez Godoy, apart from rough and tumble world of LA politics at last.
Soto also has links to former County Assessor jailbird John Noguez, to whom Soto gave a couple of three-figure campaign donations. There were other odd donations to Noguez from other taxi companies--unlikely County Assessor donors--perhaps suggesting bundling, but the oddity hasn't been investigated. Soto's taxi company, Fiesta, has also been linked to The Oldtimers Foundation, a cryptic entity that worked cities along the 605 corridor for senior transportation services, run by George Cole, one of the councilmembers involved in the Bell scandal that rocked the state.
As for Councilman Jose Huizar, he met Francine Godoy in 2006. She had come to his staff off a job in a one-stop immigration shop.
Staffers soon marveled at the accelerated promotion track she was on. She quickly became Huizar's Deputy Chief of Staff, and as early as 2007 many suspected the two were having what one woman has called "just business sexytimes and not any kind of great romance and so neither one is the sympathetic character here, even to the most average of bears that much was pretty obvious."
Godoy, originally from around Ramona Gardens, one of LA's sketchiest housing projects for a very long time, got used to being an important person. Her salary more than doubled in a very short time.
And she got used to climbing the ladder too. When John Choi left the Public Works Commission to run for Council, Godoy pressed Mayor Villaraigosa and others, including Huizar, to appoint her to his old $130,000 a year seat.
A staffer is uncertain if the office sexytimes had passed even then. What is known is that Huizar still thought she might make a good Public Works Commissioner--what Councilmember doesn't want a special relationship with one of those?
But Mayor Villaraigosa's staff balked.
When that didn't pan out, Godoy next thought of taking a run at a Community College Trustee seat. But she never filed.
And shortly after, Godoy started to make noises to acquaintances about a harassment suit.
But it wasn't until she was married to Soto a scant five months ago that the noises became reality. On her July 2013 honeymoon, four months pregnant and shortly after her marriage to Soto, she finally hit the City with complaints about Huizar.
While the City and likely a court will decide whether or not the sexual harassment claims are valid, candidates are lining up for a swing at Huizar's slot. Kevin de Leon is very interested in running against Huizar, and especially a weakened Huizar.
But the prospective CD14 candidacy that seems most exciting to the Garcetti Facebook Faithful is the one contemplated for longtime Garcetti aide Ana Guerrero.
Guerrero has been with Garcetti from his very earliest days as a City Councilman. Like Godoy, she has humble working-class roots. Like Godoy, she is a divisive figure in a hot-blooded office. And like Godoy, she has a considerable sense of entitlement. She technically lives in La Crescenta, near the district but not in it--so she would have to take residence in the District before filing.
Despite the current blare of headlines, whether or not Huizar will be seriously politically weakened by the suit remains a question. His wife stood by his side--and on stage--at his recent fundraiser. And the district when it was made over by redistricting seems more tightly than ever tailored to Huizar's strongholds.
"Sleeping with the adoring (and calculating) staff and just perpetuating the Latino Lothario stereotype, established by El Alcalde himself, doesn't earn him much sympathy from the raza, either," one woman told me. "All I can say is that Huizar is one arrogant man that needs to be schooled. He will be like the rest of the old guard Latino politicians," another, a Garcetti loyalist, told me.
As for Huizar and local affection, some at his recent fundraiser even wondered aloud if the Godoy filing was simply timed to attempt to subvert it. I did not attend the fundraiser but I was told that CBS political reporter Dave Bryan went around looking for someone to talk to about the troubles, but had trouble finding anyone willing to denounce the matter--other than long-time Huizar antagonist Scott Johnson, whom Bryan found loitering outside.
(Joseph Mailander is a writer, an LA observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He is also the author of Days Change at Night: LA's Decade of Decline, 2003-2013. Mailander blogs here.)
Vol 11 Issue 86
Pub: Oct 25, 2103