A former field deputy to Valley councilman Mitch Englander claims in a lawsuit made public Friday that chief of staff John Lee “made inappropriate and offensive jokes and comments of a sexual nature" and turned down her request to be the office's public safety deputy by saying the public expected a male in the position and that she was a “petite pretty girl.” The politically bigger accusation by the former deputy, who is not identified in the suit, is that Englander himself made inappropriate comments to her and allowed a culture of “discriminatory and harassing conduct” in the office. According to the suit, when the ex-deputy complained to Englander about the public safety deputy position, the councilman questioned whether she just wanted the job so she could walk into the fire stations and be naked in front of the male firefighters, the Daily News story says.
“After these comments, Plaintiff knew the discriminatory and harassing conduct was so ingrained within District 12 staff that it would never stop,” the suit alleges.
Reached Friday, Englander called the lawsuit “surprising.” The councilman said he couldn’t comment on details given the ongoing litigation.
“We have policies in place dealing with harassment and all our employees receive training about what is appropriate behavior,” Englander said.
The plaintiff left employment in Englander’s office on April 19, 2013, the suit notes. The suit states she had “no choice but to constructively terminate her employment to end the harassing and discriminatory conduct.”
Lee didn't respond to an e-mail, the Daily News says. In the LA Times story, Englander's spokeswoman Stephanie Saporito called the claims in the lawsuit untrue. She also released a statement from the councilman saying he wasn't aware of alleged improper conduct until the lawsuit was filed. "The first I heard of these allegations was when I learned about this lawsuit, which is surprising because my office has always had a system in place where any situation like this would immediately surface and be dealt with," Englander's statement said.
From the LAT:
The plaintiff alleged that on one occasion she caught a co-worker looking up her skirt while she walked up a flight of stairs. Instead of reprimanding the employee, Lee, the chief of staff, “broke out in laughter,” the lawsuit states.
Last week, news broke that Councilman Jose Huizar had been sued by an ex-aide who claimed retaliation and harassment when she refused sexual advances by the councilman. After the story broke, Huizar said that he and his aide had a consensual sexual relationship and that the allegations in the lawsuit were untrue.
Photo of Englander in his LAPD Reserve uniform: his office