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Garcetti gets his job in India, but fallout from scandal lingers

Eric Garcetti is in his next political chapter.

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

The passage by 52 votes to 42 in the US Senate gives the veteran politician a chance to relaunch his career abroad, though the harassment allegations that dogged his tenure — and the emotional fallout — are far off. to resolve.

A trial is scheduled for later this year in a case brought by a Los Angeles police officer who alleges he was the subject of gross sexual jokes and groping by Garcetti adviser Rick Jacobs. The adviser denies harassing anyone and Garcetti has said he did not witness the harassing behavior, as the officer alleges.

At the same time, the harassment allegations imploded once-close relations between a group that included Garcetti and his former top advisers on City Hall.

In media interviews and statements, some former Garcetti employees have blamed one another for failing to report Jacobs’ alleged misconduct or for allegedly lying about what they saw. Others have accused each other of leaking information to the media.

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

“I don’t know if this is as much a claim as a victory,” Levinson said. “Becoming ambassador to India just means there was political will to move this nomination forward.”

Garcetti, in a statement, said he was “thrilled” by Wednesday’s result, saying the ambassadorial position “has been vacant for far too long.”

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

Garcetti’s close associates were quick to rattle off the names of former US diplomats who have won elected office or held other prominent government roles, including two former ambassadors to India: the late US Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (DN.Y.) and the late John Kenneth Galbraith, the renowned liberal economist who served under multiple Democratic presidents.

“It’s an incredible group of people who have been in this job before,” said Bill Carrick, the political consultant who helped Garcetti win the mayoral job in 2013. “So this is a pretty extraordinary place to be.”

Sara Sadhwani, a professor of politics at Pomona College, suggested the position was a good fit for Garcetti at the moment.

“This is a great job and a great place to repair and rebuild your brand, your reputation and also your stature, whatever direction you want to take in the future,” Sadhwani said.

A loss in the Senate would have been a significant 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 Marymount University.

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

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

“No one will remember that it took so long; only that it was approved,” Guerra said.

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

Jacobs, in his statement, admitted that he may have hugged Garza and made sexual jokes in front of the mayor’s security detail. At least two men who worked in Garcetti’s office also gave deposition testimony in which they said they were subjected to unwanted contact by Jacobs.

Other Garcetti staff members have described being frozen by their colleagues after giving deposition testimony. Some told The Times that former co-workers blocked them on social media.

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

Emmerling, in his statement, also said that Garcetti’s wife, Amy Wakeland, threatened to deny money from Emmerling’s then-employer, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, for city-backed philanthropic work because Wakeland thought Emmerling was talking to people about the accusations.

“That story is 100% made up. I was never part of such a conversation,” Wakeland told the Times on Wednesday.

Naomi Seligman, Garcetti’s former director of communications, also alleged that she encountered a “mob”-like culture that rewarded silence in Garcetti’s office. She said other staff told her that 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, led the charge to void the nomination, meeting with Senate offices and alleging that Garcetti and others were covering up the truth of what happened.

But others in the mayor’s office questioned her credibility, saying they did not witness a key incident in which she said Jacobs had forcefully kissed her on the mouth in full view of her staff.

A jury verdict in Garza’s case, if the case isn’t settled beforehand, won’t end all prosecutions, Levinson said.

“A lot more fingers were pointed and accusations were made,” Levinson said.

Sadhwani said many voters will mostly remember that Garcetti was a Los Angeles mayor and then ambassador and focus less on the sexual harassment furore that plagued his office.

But he said the controversy would continue to appear in news articles in any future bid for office and predicted that opponents would reappear in a photo in which Garcetti stood next to Jacobs, giving a thumbs up as his aide held his hand to his crotch. from another man. .

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

Sadhwani, who is Indian-American, said not serving as ambassador has been a sore spot in India, which last year celebrated 75 years of independence from Britain. She said it was important that someone bring “all her passion” to the job.

Asked if he thought Garcetti would be that person, Sadhwani said: “I think he has a passion for justice, a real concern for fairness. Those are important qualities to bring as an ambassador to any country, right?