L.A. Times seeks to make depositions public in sexual harassment case involving former Garcetti aide

The Los Angeles Times has asked a judge to make public testimony in a lawsuit in which an LAPD officer alleges he was sexually harassed by Mayor Eric Garcetti’s former advisor.

In a motion filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, Times’ attorney Dan Laidman argued there is “overriding public interest” in the litigation involving LAPD Officer Matthew Garza, who worked on Garcetti’s security detail.

The Times’ motion asks Judge Curtis A. Kin to modify an order approved by a previous judge in January that granted lawyers for both Garza and the city broad authority to make records in the case confidential. The Times has requested a more narrowly drawn order under which only sensitive, personal information would be redacted on documents.

“Despite the obvious public interest in this litigation — brought against the city by a police officer on the mayor’s security detail, where all of the alleged conduct occurred at City Hall and other official settings — the parties have stipulated to a blanket Protective Order that allows them virtually unfettered discretion to designate any document or deposition confidential, with no showing of good cause,” the motion states.

City Atty. Mike Feuer’s spokesman Rob Wilcox said city attorneys are reviewing the motion. He declined to comment further.

Greg Smith, attorney for Garza, said in an email that his client supports the motion.

LAPD officer Garza sued the city last summer, alleging that Jacobs made crude sexual comments and touched him over a period of several years. Garza’s lawsuit states that Garcetti witnessed the inappropriate behavior and that on some occasions, the mayor laughed at Jacobs’ crude comments.

Jacobs has called Garza’s lawsuit “pure fiction.” Garcetti testified in his deposition taken earlier this year that he didn’t witness any inappropriate behavior by Jacobs.

Some of the deposition testimony in the case, such as that of Garcetti and his chief of staff, Ana Guerrero, wasn’t marked confidential, according to The Times’ motion. But the parties appear to have kept at least four other depositions under wraps since March, the motion states.

The Times’ motion argues the blanket Protective Order “does not include any showing of good cause for confidentiality” and that without the order, the depositions in the case would be public records that are subject to disclosure under the California Public Records Act.

The motion also argues that “the parties do not have countervailing interests that could overcome the extremely strong public interest in disclosure here.”

“The Times brought this motion because cases like this demand maximum transparency,” Laidman said in a statement to The Times. “There’s a strong public interest in learning the basis for these allegations of high-level misconduct, and in scrutinizing how the courts handle cases involving powerful public agencies and officials.”

The Times has covered some of the deposition testimony, including that of the mayor, Garza, and a former aide to Garcetti who said that he was subjected to unwanted touching by Jacobs.

Other Garcetti aides testified that they didn’t see Jacobs act in an inappropriate manner.

The Times on Wednesday reported that the former president of the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles, a nonprofit organization, testified in his deposition that he heard Garcetti say words to the effect of “I can’t believe Rick worked out at City Hall and that we got through it without a lawsuit.”

Garcetti, in his February deposition, was asked if he had made such a statement and denied that he had. The mayor on Wednesday said he stands by his testimony.

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