A longtime close advisor to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said late Tuesday he would temporarily step away from his work at a nonprofit tied to the mayor following a second accusation that the advisor, Rick Jacobs, had forcibly kissed and touched others without consent.
“For the past seventeen years, I have dedicated myself to advocacy and public service,” Jacobs said in a statement relayed through a former Garcetti spokesperson.
“I do not want this to be a distraction. Therefore, I will take a leave from my nonprofit work and my volunteer political work with the Mayor.”
Jacobs did not directly address the allegations described by writer and reporter Yashar Ali, who said in a first-person account posted online Monday that Jacobs had kissed him against his will.
Ali told NBC4’s I-Team that he decided to make a public statement after it appeared Garcetti had done little in response to a lawsuit filed in July by an LAPD officer that accused Jacobs of unwanted hugging and touching, as well as making crude sexual remarks in the mayor’s presence.
“I take seriously all allegations of harassment,” Garcetti said in a statement sent to reporters at 6:03 p.m. Tuesday. “Rick Jacobs has stepped away from his non-profit and volunteer political work.”
Garcetti’s office did not respond to calls or emails requesting comment on Ali’s allegations for about a day. The statement sent Tuesday evening did not answer any of the specific questions sent by NBC4.
Ali, who once worked as a political consultant to a number of Democratic party figures and is now a freelance reporter and writer, said in a post on his Substack website Tuesday that Jacobs, “used to forcibly kiss me on the lips when I encountered him through my previous work in politics,” and said at least two other individuals had confided in Ali that they had experienced similar unwanted encounters.
The LAPD officer who sued, Matthew Garza, claimed in a complaint filed in LA Superior Court in July that Garcetti had personally witnessed several instances of Jacobs’ alleged unwanted touching and hugging and had allegedly heard Jacobs make crude sexual remarks.
The LA City Attorney’s Office issued general denials to Garza’s allegations in a court filing in late September. Garcetti’s office said at the time the suit was filed, “the mayor has zero tolerance for sexual harassment and unequivocally did not witness the behavior that Officer Garza alleges.”
Garza was assigned to the mayor’s personal protective detail and was in close contact with Garcetti and Jacobs, the lawsuit said.
Ali said in his account he had considered Jacobs a friend and the two encountered one another regularly when Ali did political work between 2005 and 2015.
“The incidents where Jacobs would forcibly kiss me always happened in front of others and at political and social functions,” Ali wrote. “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.””
Jacobs has occupied a key position in Garcetti’s political sphere, working as a campaign advisor and fundraiser, a deputy mayor during Garcetti’s first term, and as an advisor on Garcetti’s exploration of a run for president in 2017 and 2018. Although Jacobs no longer holds an official title and is not a city employee he was still listed Monday as treasurer of the Mayor’s Fund, an allied nonprofit, and is said to have the mayor’s ear on most major issues.
Ali said in his account that sources he contacted said Jacobs, “still maintains his influence over the mayor’s life.” The I-Team’s City Hall contacts declined to confirm Ali’s exact wording but said Jacobs remains very close to Garcetti.
After Garza’s lawsuit became public Garcetti told the LA Times that the claim shouldn’t interfere with Jacobs’ work with the Mayor’s Fund.
“This is something that should take a process forward, but shouldn’t keep somebody who has been a committed public servant from being able to continue to serve our community and our world,” Garcetti told the Times in September.
Jacobs was quoted in the same article as saying the Garza allegations were, “pure fiction.”