The silence stands out. City Controller Kenneth Mejia has said nothing about the sexual harassment allegations lodged against him, even as those allegations quickly grew from social media venting into an incipient crisis being followed eagerly by the Los Angeles Times.

When her friend and fellow Mejia campaign alumnus Kyler Chin was fired from Mejia’s office, Shekinah Deocares, who briefly served as the Controller’s Director of Community Engagement, began detailing a pattern of unacceptable workplace conduct by her former boss.

On Twitter, Deocares has said Mejia “repeatedly [made] unwanted and unprovoked sexual comments” directed at her and her partner, Sim Bilal, despite being asked by multiple people to stop. Bilal and another alum, Lorenzo De Felitta, back up the allegations of sexual harassment with Bilal adding that Mejia’s wife and Jane Nguyen, his chief of staff, were among those who witnessed the behavior and told him to stop.

Accused of what sounds very much like creating a hostile work environment during his campaign, Mejia has made no reply. Deocares also says she believes that after his election, the Controller had an employee attempt surreptitious oversight of her work by asking Bilal to report her daily activities back to Mejia, and that this was done in retaliation for Deocares stating her “issues about the office.” And no word of response to any of this from Mejia either.

Now, one-time allies who ostensibly made up the core of Mejia’s clique are tearing down one another’s recounting of events. In the Times, Nguyen describes Deocares and Bilal as “lashing out” and “mischaracterizing” Mejia’s actions, and says that allegations made by the pair and Chin are “not true,” “incorrect” or “absurdly distorted,” while denying having ever witnessed harassment by Mejia.

Some (still employed) members of the Controller’s executive team have posted messages of support for Mejia on Twitter. Chief of Accountability and Oversight Sergio Perez took to the platform to write that the allegations “don’t reflect my day to day experiences or observations” and that they “don’t reflect the truth of the 12 other executive team members.” Communications Director Diana Chang said in a separate thread, “I have experienced & seen only support, patience, and care for employees from Kenneth & Jane,” adding obliquely that “sometimes” Mejia and Nguyen’s compassion “gets taken advantage of.”

There is little reason for the Controller or his allies to think that the fallout is contained here. However friendly they might once have been with their accusers, positions are hardening. Deocares says she feels “sick” over the Nguyen’s denials in the LA Times and that “the time for us to meet has passed.” Bilal and another Mejia supporter-turned-vocal critic, William Gude, made implicit albeit non-specific threats on Twitter to those who “say shit to or about” Deocares and Chin (Bilal) or “think about sliming” them (Gude). But social media for the Controller’s office retreated almost immediately to posting about internal auditing capacity.

The longer this goes on, the stranger this insistence on hiding behind spokespeople and lieutenants will appear. Angelenos deserve to hear from the Controller in his own words.

This is only more true given that one of the odder allegations against Mejia has been substantiated. Although Nguyen denies there was anything wrong or unusual about his doing so, she did confirm to the LA Times that Mejia had collected money for referring multiple of his employees as tenants to his apartment building. Deocares and Bilal shared text messages with Times reporters indicating that they had been subject to repeated pressure by Mejia to move in as well.

Mejia had at least three of his executive staff living in his building recently, and, regardless what the office’s stance about this arrangement may be, such evidently attenuated boundaries are cause for concern. They bespeak an inability on Mejia’s part to adequately separate the personal and professional and further suggest that he was at minimum willing to put his employees in the awkward position of having to say no to their boss multiple times about important personal decisions; and decisions, for that matter, in which their boss had a financial stake.

The amount of money in question for these referral fees, for someone suddenly making $250,000 a year, would have been minuscule. But that only makes the behavior more confusing: why not simply back off?

It lends credibility to other claims about Mejia, like what Deocares describes as a penchant for showing up unannounced late in the evening to talk about work or even the alleged request to have Bilal spy on his romantic partner.

And, if Mejia is willing to exert inappropriate pressure on employees to influence where they live, what other aspects of their lives might that tendency show up? Recently, Mejia posted video on TikTok of a member of his executive team, Vincent de Vera, with a corgi de Vera had just adopted “four hours” after Animal Services tweeted about the dog. Corgis being central to Mejia’s brand – featuring, just for one example, on the posters that Mejia has posted around City Hall – I could not help thinking: surely your boss would not encourage you to adopt a pet for clout? De Vera, too, lives in Mejia’s building. If nothing else, the boss and his workers seem to lead uncommonly consonant lives.

It seems that the primary response of Mejia’s office has been to counter-accuse the accusers of being unprofessional, a charge which they must know critics of their campaign will seize on. More pressing in my mind is the question of whether Mejia, who in many ways operates like an influencer and who apparently has been constructing something like a Hype House out of his top staff, can himself be professional. This is not a question that can convincingly be answered in denials from surrogates: let us hear from Mejia himself.

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