Local Journalism Happens With YouSupport

New Councilmember Imelda Padilla Hires Former State Assembly Staffer Accused of Sexual Misconduct

The councilmember’s list of hires includes Mark Lomeli, who left the state Assembly after being accused of sexual impropriety.

Councilmember Imelda Padilla presiding at an August 1st City Council meeting folding her hands.
Councilmember Imelda Padilla speaking at an August 1 LA City Council meeting about her election being certified. (Photo: Youtube)

Newly elected councilmember Imelda Padilla won the special election for Council District 6 in June by a couple thousand votes over challenger Marisa Alcaraz, and has quickly begun the hiring process.

Mark Lomeli, who was formerly the chief of staff for California State Assemblymember Mike Gipson, has been hired as the CD6 district director. In 2019, the California Assembly released part of a report that substantiated claims that Lomeli had violated the Assembly’s sexual harassment policy.

According to the report, which was compiled from interviews with over two dozen witnesses, Lomeli “more likely than not” grabbed another staffer’s buttocks and inappropriately touched her body. It also supported another female staffer’s claim that he sent unprofessional text messages to her in 2016. 

Lomeli left the Assembly in 2018, and his LinkedIn shows that he worked as an “Oil and Gas Consultant” for CoAction Strategies and a “Government and Public Affairs Manager” at the Marathon Petroleum Corporation. He also previously worked for the Los Angeles Unified School District under former Board Member and CD6 Councilmember Nury Martinez, and wrote an article for the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles, a landlord lobby that endorsed Padilla in the special election.

When asked about Lomeli’s history as a consultant for oil and gas, Padilla told Knock LA that “given the drastic and fast moving changes that we are experiencing with the future of energy, our search for District Director led us to Mr. Lomeli in part because of his depth of knowledge and experience in the energy sector.”

When asked if they were aware of the accusations against Lomeli, Padilla said that she would not comment on personnel matters that arose during his time as an employee in the Assembly. “[My] understanding is that as a father of 2 daughters, Mr. Lomeli has spent the years following these serious allegations, focused on redemption through his church, family and professional therapy.”

Padilla added that “Mr. Lomeli’s directive is to bring his extensive intergovernmental and team management experience to hit the ground running and lead our field operation to ensure that our constituents’ concerns and city service needs are addressed swiftly and with utmost urgency.”

Lomeli did not respond to a request for comment. 

Naomi Seligman, vice president of Whistleblower Aid and former communications director for former mayor Eric Garcetti, told Knock LA that “this appointment raises obvious concerns for anyone who will be working with the new councilmember’s staff.” Seligman testified that she had witnessed and reported harassment by Garcetti’s mayoral aide Rick Jacobs during her time working in City Hall. “It should also serve as a reminder to the Council that there is still no outside mechanism to respond to sexual harassment complaints and allegations at City Hall. That needs to change.”

LA City Council is set to vote on a tentative settlement agreement with an LAPD officer who accused Jacobs of sexual harassment. 

“There needs to be a good amount of evidence for a workplace investigation to substantiate allegations against somebody. That’s been historically true in the legislature — and especially true before the creation of the workplace conduct unit in 2019, which has a lot of room for growth, but is an improvement on the process that came before it,“ Ruth Ferguson told Knock LA. Ferguson is the co-founder of SHIP — a coalition of former and current political staffers advocating for ending sexual and discrimination in politics.

Ferguson worked in the assembly from 2019 to 2020 and experienced sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation while working in the Assembly, and reported her experience through official channels. 

“It’s a well-known secret that there can be quite a lot of sexual harassment and discrimination in politics and government, especially among young women,” Ferguson said.

“Even if somebody goes through the necessary process of acknowledging the harm they’ve done and grown from their behavior, I think it’s very inappropriate for their next role in government to be in a position of power, and [it] potentially puts other staff members in her office at risk.”

Other Staffing Changes

Before Padilla took the seat, Alexis Wesson was placed in charge of the CD 6 office after former councilmember Martinez resigned following the leaking of racist audio recorded at the LA County Federation of Labor. She has now transitioned out of the office. 

A spokesperson for Councilmember Padilla tells Knock LA that “it is very normal and standard with new incoming Councilmembers to build their own team. We thank Alexis for her time in the office and wish her success in her new role.”

They added that the office had hired on Alexandra Leard as deputy chief of staff, and Jackie Filla as policy and legislation director.