June 23, 2024 #1 Local News, Information and Event Source for the Century City/Westwood areas.

Owner of Beverly Hills Restaurant Surprised by Sexual Assault Lawsuit

Beverly Hills
Ken Todd and Lisa Vanderplump are both involved in a sexual harassment lawsuit. The allegations stem from a server who worked at Todd’s Beverly Hills restaurant. (Courtesy image)

The husband of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Lisa Vanderpump found out on a celebrity website that the restaurant he owns – the Villa Blanca – was the subject of a lawsuit filed by a former server, who claims she was sexually harassed by an assistant manager.

Ken Todd said he thought the allegations brought by plaintiff Karina Bustillos against Michael Govia were resolved based on information given him by then-Villa Blanca General Manager, Andrew Morrison, to whom the plaintiff had complained.

Todd also said other employees working the night of the alleged incident gave a different account from Bustillos, who maintains she was grabbed on the wrists by Govia.

“It was quite a surprise by me,” said Todd, who told jurors he first learned about the lawsuit from a celebrity website.

Bustillos filed her case in Los Angeles Superior Court in October 2012, naming the restaurant, Vanderpump, Todd and Govia as defendants. Defense attorneys have denied any wrongdoing on the part of any of their clients. Testimony in the trial of Bustillos’ suit is wrapping up its first week.

Questioned by Bustillos attorney Lisa Maki, Todd confirmed that the restaurant has a policy that an employee will be fired for committing violence within the workplace. Bustillos maintains Govia caused pain in her wrists when he took hold of and twisted them after she asked for change for a $20 bill so she could distribute tips at the end of her shift on Aug. 13, 2012.

Todd said that if he were convinced Govia had hurt Bustillos, he would have lost his job.

“It’s true, he would have been terminated,” Todd said.

But Todd was less familiar with the Villa Blanca employee-manager open-door policy, which Maki displayed for jurors on a screen.

“Open-door? What do you mean by that?,” Todd asked. “I haven’t heard of that term before.”

Asked by Maki about surveillance cameras at the restaurant, Todd said they were installed primarily to allow a sweeping view of the eatery by management and not as an investigatory tool. He said the images are recorded over daily.

“We never have incidents at Villa Blanca,” he said.

Bustillos worked at Villa Blanca in Beverly Hills for about 14 months until September 2012, when she maintains she quit because she could not take the stress of remaining there any longer. She alleges the eatery violated its own policies against sexual harassment by not doing anything to punish Govia for his alleged misconduct.

In other testimony, Scheana Marie, a cast member of the Housewives Bravo spinoff Vanderpump Rules and also a server at Villa Blanca in Beverly Hills, told jurors that she and Bustillos were once friends and car-pooled together to work. However, she said she never saw Govia mistreat the plaintiff or anyone else at the restaurant.

Marie said she was present at the restaurant the day Bustillos maintains Govia grabbed her wrists. She testified that Bustillos was “in a bad mood” and “wanted to get out of there.”

However, Bustillos never said anything about what she alleged Govia had done to her. She said she was not appreciative of her colleague’s demeanor.

Yet another actor and Villa Blanca server, Richardson Chery, said he was surprised to learn of Bustillo’s allegations against Govia because all of the employees at the restaurant considered each other friends.

“I was shocked because it was out of character for Michael to have done something like that,” Chery said. “The whole story didn’t make sense.”

However, he said he recommended to Bustillos that she report what happened to management if she “thought she was being taken advantage of.”

Also taking the stand was Beverly Hills police Officer Audra Alatorre, who said she interviewed Bustillos the night she alleges Govia mistreated her. Although Bustillos said her wrists were sore, there was no evidence the plaintiff was physically hurt, Alatorre said.

“I didn’t observe any injuries on her,” Alatorre testified.

Alatorre said Bustillos did not want Govia prosecuted. The officer said she filled out an incident report of the interview with Bustillos in case the information was needed later.

Vanderpump is not scheduled to testify in court, but Maki said she might present the 53-year-old reality show star’s deposition testimony to the jury next week. Defense attorney Marieanne Zakarian told Judge Michael Linfield she plans to have Todd testify again next week.

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