Opinion: Discipline Is Needed in WeHo City Hall’s 3rd Floor High School

Parking. Traffic. Development. Pedestrian safety. Fran Solomon.

Fran Solomon? Parking, traffic, development and pedestrian safety are on the agendas of most candidates in the race for West Hollywood City Council. But with only 38 days until the March 3 election, some folks seem determined to turn the election into an episode of “Mean Girls” focused on Councilmember John Heilman’s deputy.

John Heilman, west hollywood
Fran Solomon

In an off-topic remark last Saturday at a candidates’ forum hosted by the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, Mayor John D’Amico, a staunch opponent of Heilman, told the audience that Solomon had complained that “too many gays” voted in the 2011 Council race. Not something that Solomon would want to be accused of, given that Heilman and 40 percent of West Hollywood residents are gay. Solomon, in an interview with WEHOville, denied the allegation.

And in recent weeks there has been an effort to further sully Solomon’s reputation (and by extension that of Heilman) by claiming that she has been making campaign contribution solicitations for her boss on a city telephone from her city office, which is not permissible.

A major player in that campaign is Ian Owens, deputy to Councilmember John Duran, the only Council incumbent not up for re-election. On Dec. 7 Owens filed a request for a copy of Solomon’s office telephone records with City Clerk Yvonne Quarker. Such records have to be made available under California’s freedom of information laws. The document returned to Owens had a number of calls redacted, or blacked out, which is permitted for calls made for certain personal reasons, like those to a doctor (Solomon recently was on leave because of a medical condition). Duran is not an ally of Heilman’s, but he told WEHOville he had been unaware of Owens’ plan to request that information.

Several readers then asked WEHOville to request those records as well and to write a story about Solomon’s use of city resources to raise money for Heilman. Solomon agreed to provide the records to WEHOville herself. But we declined to write a story because the records show only who Solomon called and not what the conversation was about. However Ryan Gierach filed a request for the information on Jan. 14, telling people he plans to write about the allegations. Gierach is a local blogger who often has attacked Heilman and Councilmember Abbe Land and Council candidate Lindsey Horvath, who are seen as Heilman’s allies.

But it’s been a bit frustrating for the “Mean Girls.” For one thing, WEHOville has declined to report the unproven allegations as fact. And while Gierach apparently is planning to do so, his blog has very few readers these days. He claims many of them are in Asia, Europe and on the East Coast and thus presumably not West Hollywood voters who would be influenced by what he writes. Also, his reputation has been damaged in the eyes of some by an opinion piece he wrote recently that was  criticized as anti-Semitic by Rabbi Denise Eger of Congregation Kol Ami. Having Ryan Gierach on your side might not be politically smart.

So the Heilman/Solomon opponents now are trying to make the allegations go viral. Yesterday a mass email went out (with a copy to WEHOville) that purports to document Solomon’s misbehavior. Attached to the email is a document that claims to list Solomon’s activity at her City Hall office at various times on Jan. 13 and 14. The list includes 10 instances where Solomon is alleged to have called people to solicit their participation in a photo shoot to promote Heilman’s campaign. If true, that’s a definite no-no, but the document doesn’t include any allegations that the calls were made to solicit campaign donations.

The writer of the document actually includes a quote from one of Solomon’s conversations — “he would love to have you there, sweetie” she is quoted as saying to one person she is said to invite to the campaign photo shoot. And the writer mentions her discussing her health issues on the telephone. All of which suggests that someone is bugging her office if not making this stuff up.

The source of the email is someone who identifies himself as Matthew Mills. But the document that purports to list Solomon’s alleged improper behavior was created by Ian Owens, Duran’s deputy, using Excel software owned by the City of West Hollywood and thus apparently created on city time.

We don’t know whether Fran Solomon made improper solicitations for people to appear in a political campaign photo shoot for John Heilman or whether she has solicited campaign funds. And we would condemn either action if it were proven to be true. But what we do know is that it’s time for City Manager Paul Arevalo,the principal of this high school on the third floor of City Hall, to send some of these “Mean Girls” (and boys) to the corner if not expel them. And it’s time for those running for City Council to stay focused on the issues that matter to the people they hope to represent.

  1. I did some research on this whole Owens whistle blowing start of this event at City Hall. And have sourced what he leaked to the press. Certainly its focused on his attempts good or bad in motives to focus on Fran Solomon, by alleging she was using her position at city hall and or time at city hall in her hours as a deputy to campaign for her boss. As far as the code or law that prohibits this kind of behavior by a city council deputy, I did some research today and its hard to find online But I personally am of the opinion that after being there for so many years, she would clearly have an understanding of what is permitted as far as campaigning for her boss. So to me personally I don’t necessarily buy into this argument in this thread the Owens was a law breaker and rogue at city hall. It appears from this his efforts in what was leaked focused specifically on one day at city hall. And is in the style of a whistle blower approach. Hes alleging that Fran Solomon calls that day contained fund raising work for a photo shoot later that night for her boss And isn’t that really a good thing at the core, some one in city hall trying to advocate for transparency and ethical practices? You can view what was leaked to the media here

  2. Sorry, last election, not last year above. I planned to vote for him in 2011 until those came. He lost me then.

  3. Steve – some context here – John D’Amico ran a campaign last year that had flyers sent out comparing John Heilman and Abby Land to the leaders of North Korea and Romania among other vile, disgusting tactics. Let’s not pretend she didn’t have good reasons to disdain him.

  4. This is really a big black eye for CM Duran and he should be called upon to bounce his secretary from that post. It looks like this is a clear abuse of power and personally if I were Fran, I would sue the crap out of Duran, his deputy and city hall for allowing this to happen. That Fran’s medical information was leaked and her phone was seemingly bugged, is certainly criminal activity.

    I understand that Duran’s had a temp in place since this blew up, but not sure if it’s for good which is clearly needs to be.

  5. And Lauren Meister should be stopped for a whole host of reasons. She just not right for West Hollywood and all resident’s.

  6. Power emanates from whoever can put together three votes on the City Council. For the last couple of years there has not been any sort of coherent Council majority but it seems that Heilman seems to dominate by default. Having no majority is not necessarily a bad thing; in an ideal world the City Council would vote on issues on their merit not based upon personality issues and who contributed to their campaigns or favorite non-profits. Meister and D’Amico at least share a common core of beliefs about preserving the urban village character of West Hollywood so I doubt if their mutual endorsements are based on any cynical hidden agenda.

    On the other hand our City Manager needs to step in an clean up the City Council play pen. Our Human Resources manager or even an ombudsman should be looking into the Fran Solomon allegations get to the bottom on this mess BEFORE the election. If Ms. Solomon is vindicated it should be done immediately as it is not fair to her or John Heilman that these allegations be allowed to fester. I am no big fan of theirs but we have a duty to be fair. Justice delayed is justice denied for both Ms. Solomon and the West Hollywood voters.

    If anyone has been cynical, it is the so-called WeHo PAC, which is obviously a bunch of developers who are determined to stop Lauren Meister from being elected. Their endorsement of D’Amico is just the honey to distract the voters.

    Steve Martin

  7. This sort of explains D’Amico’s cynical endorsement of Meisner – he thought she has a chance of winning, he wants Heilman gone so he can act like he’s the de facto mayor with little counter balance, so he’s willing to saddle up to Meisner despite their past differences. Not going to vote for either of them though when this race started D’Amico had my vote.

  8. Everyone behold the Keystone Kops running our little Mayberry. To hell with all of them.

  9. Getting pasted for something I might just write is a true testament to my abilities, I suppose. Thanks all, and especially my dear friend Rob Bergstein. All the best folks!

  10. I find this fascinating so I looked at the phone(y) records on line. You can google the phone numbers. 13 calls in 2 days that are not personal or medical. Here’s the breakdown:

    1) Amazon
    2) National League of Cities
    3) A code publisher
    4) Minnesota Senate (hopefully to tell Michelle Bachman “please never visit here.”)
    5) A showroom at the PDC
    6) A Tenants Rights Clinic
    7) An 80 year old senior resident
    8) A 60 year old senior resident
    9) A resident on Havenhurst of uncertain age.

    4 Calls 10-13 I could not figure out. Sounds like a lot of accusations without a lot of fact.

    I am much more concerned about the fact that someone (Owens) wasted time making a useless spread sheet instead of doing work for John Duran.

    Ms. Solomon is clearly Innocent. Mr. Owens, is at the very least, guilty of misuse of public resources.

    The court of public opinion and fact speaks volumes (all 13 calls) non of which proves anything. Get to work people!

  11. Maybe it’s time to eliminate the highly paid, covertly political post of council deputy; hire a couple of administrative assistants to handle administrative tasks for council members; and either bank the savings or reallocate the money to public safety.

  12. What else do we know about Solomon’s past ethics record? Has she been accused of other things? I do not know; can someone fill me in? Misusing city credit cards in any form is a great example piggish city hogs sopping up what they believe they can get away with and that’s just the appetizer. People entrenched in positions of power for too long become selfish, lazy and entitled. It’s just a fact. Do I need to illustrate with dozens and dozens of examples. The city of Bell comes to mind when hearing about how these unsupervised “brats” might be behaving. I smell a pig and a rat.

    I can’t believe D’Amico would go on the record with such a bold statement if it were not only not true but he had it on good authority. Just because Solomon works for a gay councilman doesn’t mean she can’t have her own bias. What? Are you new? That said, if D’Amico and Duran’s offices/deputies are acting Inappropriately Red Flag Red Flag and I want to know before March 3rd. Help! How can we find out more???? Brian

  13. @Larry Block…Waaa, waaa, waaa. Get on with your campaign…which seems to be going well. No body wants to hear you complain about petty gossip and rumors…and that’s what this whole thread has become. YOU keep thanking Heilman for his service and you have even said on several occasions it’s time for him to move on, so please stop pointing fingers. Let’s face it probably most of the candidates want to see Heilman retire. The voters want to hear what you’re going to do about over-development, traffic and services.

  14. Ian Owens – GET BACK TO WORK AND CUT THE CRAP! I was on the fence about Mayor John D’Amico but after the nasty swipe he took indirectly at Heilman…I’m no longer considering him.

  15. @Rob and Mike Dolan….Remember when Fran Solomom got a big SLAP on the wrist for ABUSING the city’s credit cards for meals at high end restaurants? Maybe the punishment for Ian should be the same!

    @ Tom Smart…DUH! Yes!


  16. Re: Discipline Is Needed in WeHo City Hall’s 3rd Floor High School

    The facts and accusations presented here are more along the line of Watergate and not High School!

    City Manager Paul Arevalo, and perhaps City Attorney Mike Jenkins, must address the egregious behavior that has taken place at West Hollywood City Hall. Bugging, the attempt to conceal one’s real identity, the malicious exposure of a person’s personal health information, entrapment, collusion and jealousy has infected City Hall and allegedly the Mayor’s office, John D’Amico and his Deputy, Michelle Rex, scheming with Ian Owens. Ian Owens’ use of City Hall’s software, mass-email and pseudo-name (Mathew Mills) to conceal his identity. These insidious delinquencies, grounds for expulsion, are the height of unacceptable behavior. Our fine city’s reputation is under attack and that must be stopped. Ian Owen and his posse’s devious and unethical scheme directed at Fran Solomon and Mayor Pro-tem Heilman are rooted in Mayor D’Amico’s jealous, vengeful acts of retribution going back to his day on the Planning Commission.

    Matthew Mills, traced directly back to the true author of these insidious attacks on Fran Solomon came back as John Duran’s Deputy, Ian Owens. Now it is no surprise nor secret that Ian Owens and Michelle Rex are seen tightly joined at all city functions and are obviously unhealthy co-workers, friends and have a very unprofessional relationship. Our city’s deputies are being paid to unlawfully misuse software on paid time, actively soliciting mass emails to anyone who will take this tripe. This is not part of their job description!

    It is also no revelation that Mayor John D’Amico has publicly demonstrated his dislike for our Mayor Pro-tem, John Heilman, one of our fine city’s founding architects and devoted servant to West Hollywood.

    John Heilman is and has always been driven to make West Hollywood the most inclusive, housing affordability guardian, creative, beloved home to all Weho residents. West Hollywood, is today an example of what cities worldwide want to emulate. He has not done it alone. Fran Solomon has staunchly been by his side actively contributing for all of West Hollywood’s side and residents. We went through many a growing pain and pinnacle of success and frankly Fran gets a lot of credit.

    To have his office attacked in this unlawful manner serves to only tarnish our shinning reputation and sully’s West Hollywood sterling standing. Remember, we do have an AAA rating with excess of $120M in reserve.

    Fran Solomon is a fine upstanding, dedicated worker whose character is beyond reproach. It has always puzzled me that if a woman is strong, out-spoken, no-nonsense; she is consider overbearing and bitchy. But in a man, these same characteristics are admired and considered as leadership and strength. Well, misogynistic yes and in the case of Ian Owens and John D’Amico cunning acts against Fran and John Heilman are despicable and not one’s the City of West Hollywood should be dragged down into.

    These are serious and flagrant deliberate attacks and break every code-of-conduct that must be held to the highest standard.

    West Hollywood suffers from low voter turnout at a time in this election cycle where we are working to turn this around. This deplorable scheme is exactly why voter turnout is so low and I have no doubt that it will impact further reduction of voter turnout negatively. It’s borderline voter suppression using high-tech to achieve this end result of assault on Fran Solomon and John Heilman.

    In my opinion, Ian Owens should be fired. Michelle Rex should be investigated. Mayor John D’Amico should publicly apologize to Fran Solomon, Mayor Pro-Tem Heilman and all the residents of West Hollywood. This is behavior unbecoming an elected official. I would also ask all supporters of Mayor John D’Amico to open-mindedly assess your vote and support of his candidacy in this election cycle.

    Those D’Amico endorsed on his ticket, Joe Guardarrama and Lauren Meister, ethically should rescind his endorsement. Be on the right side. Be ethical and make the right choice that is honest and civically responsible. Emotions cannot be a factor in your re-evaluation of D’Amico nor this election but what is best for West Hollywood. There are issues in this campaign that must be the focus of this election.

    This so called Mean Girls/Boys Club (including Ryan Gierach) are a silly distraction, but facts are facts. Shame on Owens, Rex and Mayor D’Amico.

  17. Mr. Matthews, it is not the same. None of the city deputies are former paid campaign consultants but one.

  18. This has gone way beyond the concept of mean girls in the hallway & inappropriate behavior into what may very well be criminal activity. That John Duran’s deputy, Ian Owens felt the need to request Fran Solomon’s phone logs for any reason without first checking with John Duran to make sure there was a legitimate, City interest in doing so, begins my questioning into his motives. Duran’s not up for re-election….John D’Amico is, and it’s well known that he wants John Heilman off of City Council, (his opening remarks at last week’s candidates forum against Fran Solomon were truly shameful)) and his deputy, Michelle Rex, is close friends with Ian…..but I’ve not heard anything that would suggest that anyone from the D’Amico camp put Ian up to this. It appears that not only were the records requested, but perhaps someone has been listening in on Fran’s phone conversations–whether it was through the wall of the office next door (John Duran/Ian Owen’s) or with some type of electronic bug, and specifics about Fran’s legally protected, private medical information has also been leaked. By copy of this response to the West Hollywood City Council, City Manager Paul Aravello and City Attorney Mike Jenkins, I am asking that a full investigation be launched into this matter. If any evidence is found of any City employee having abused their position and City resources in the obtaining of these phone records and any other materials, they should be immediately placed on administrative leave (and locked out of The City’s computer resources) until the matter has been resolved. If the findings warrant such, this matter should also be referred over to the West Hollywood Sheriff’s for investigation and filing of criminal charges.
    As for Ryan Gierach and wehonews…..Ryan is an online blogger who’s complete and utter lack of journalistic integrity has been apparent for years….I don’t pay any attention to anything that he writes.

  19. Sounds like you’re slamming lawyers, Larry, which doesn’t bode well for any indications that you will go into the City Council as a conciliatory presence.

    Barack Obama, as a lawyer, wakes up every morning thinking about the USA.

  20. Thank you Rudolf, everybody else seems to be able to read but SL.. and yes, I type on an especially large computer at 20point. Im blind in one eye, and blind in the other but my lens helps me get by to 20/40 these days.. I wake up in the morning and think about how to cross the street, or what happens if I lose my other eye… I think of people. Ask yourself what a lawyer or planning commissioner thinks about when they get up in the morning.

  21. “…from D’Amico’s deputy and her ex-partner Renee Nahum representing both campaigns.”

    Why is that so controversial? I seem to remember Heilman/Land/Horvath doing the same thing 4 years ago (with only two of them making it through). Politicians can form allies and work together if they want.

  22. Rudolf, thanks for speculating that Larry’s impairment is causing the murkiness in his written statements. I’ve known of others with disabilities who were more clear in their written communications, so your conjecture surprises me.

  23. What an embarrassing soap opera, I hope we can replace all participants if there turns out to be proof of intentional wrongdoing. I am not holding my breath for the city manager to do that.

    If Duran’s deputy really made those requests without Duran’s knowledge he might have to be muzzled or let go. It would be nice if the deputies would use their precious time for more constructive things, after all we pay them very well.

    “SL”, I believe Mr. Block is visually impaired. If that concerns you enough to anonymously keep sniping away from behind your pseudonym then rest assured, he will have a full time deputy to type for him.

  24. WEHO? let start by calling it the city of west hollywood.
    it’s no WEHO. it’s all about money, it’s all about SELLING the LGBTQ community for $$$.
    why the % of people the vote in the city of west hollywood is so low?
    rainbow with no heart and soul.

  25. Again, Larry, your improper grammar makes it impossible to decipher what you are talking about. Please proofread. And again, politicians/candidates NEED to be clear communicators.

  26. Let’s pick this apart:

    1) A woman who works for a gay councilman would really say: “too many gays voted in the last election? From what I have heard she is a pretty well known lover of gay people and I was told she even goes to the gay Temple Kol-Ami.

    Conclusion: Doesn’t pass the smell test.

    2) D’Amico making this statement: Grounds for a public apology. Rude and disrespectful to co-workers. You may loose votes from women.

    3) Mr. Owens behavior–also not collegial. Not professional. If you really think someone is abusing their time at City Hall you will need more than speculation and vague statements and a phone list. Moreover, why is he not spending his time doing his councilman’s work?

    4) My mom used to say to us kids years ago in the 50’s “who started it?” She would find out and that brother or sister had to take responsibility. In this case Mr. D’Amico started it so he needs to rise above, apologize and tell everyone they will stop now!

  27. I have many questions, including:

    1.How will the City Manager respond?
    2.Will Duran’s Deputy be removed?
    3. Are there any other people involved in these wrongdoings?
    4. Is this all politically motivated? If so, who’s attack who?
    5. Can we please focus on the issues our city really cares about?

  28. If John Heilman gets defeated in the election, does Fran Solomon go too? I’ve been hearing about her nasty dealings on behalf of Heilman for years. She has to go!

  29. I’ve heard rumors for years about the “mean girls” circus on the third floor of City Hall. It seems that the deputies have had personality clashes for years. Ostensibly, the deputies are the (highly-paid) employees who do the daily work for each council member. There should be a better, more professional working relationship so we could get the business of the people done. Yeah, I know, I’m dreaming.

  30. More proof of the childishness and churlishness of WeHo City Council. All of them need to go. We have some very good citizen-focused candidates for City Council up this year: Larry Block, Lauren Meister, and Heidi paramount among them. I will be campaigning hard for these three — lets throw the money-grubbing bums out!

  31. Allegations flying high with no proof. This is a high stakes maneuver to stain Heilman and get Joe on the council into that 3rd spot. We need change.. yes we do, from this crap to real issues, .. from D’Amico’s deputy and her ex-partner Renee Nahum representing both campaigns.. the Mayor’s campaign manager raising money for 2 campaigns at once..

    WIth all due respect Heilman did introduce campaign reform that D’Amico voted against..

    I’m glad to speak up to both camps and demand a handshake and civility.. and also to speak up against the mis-doings on both sides.

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