WeHo City Council Deputy Ian Owens is Suspended While Conduct is Investigated

The recent drama among West Hollywood City Council member deputies has led to one of them being placed on administrative leave.

West Hollywood City Council Deputy Ian Owens, right, with Councilmember John Duran (Facebook)
West Hollywood City Council Deputy Ian Owens, left, with Councilmember John Duran (Facebook)

Ian Owens, deputy to Councilmember John Duran, was placed on leave last Monday while the city investigates allegations that he spied on Fran Solomon, deputy to Councilmember John Heilman, and that he is the source of reports that she solicited people to participate in a photo shoot for Heilman’s re-election campaign from her city office. Owens prepared a document purporting to justify his allegations using city software, and thus apparently was produced from his city office. The document includes quotes purportedly from Solomon’s telephone conversations, leading her to wonder if her office was being bugged. That document was emailed to numerous email accounts, including that of WEHOville, by someone using the name Matthew Mills.

While Owens is out, Duran is being assisted by Bobby Safikhani. Solomon currently is out because of illness, leaving John Erickson as Heilman’s interim assistant. City officials declined to comment on Owens’ leave, noting that city personnel actions are private and confidential. Councilmember John Duran also declined to comment, citing the same reason.

The full time deputy system is not common in Los Angeles County. In West Hollywood the jobs are quite lucrative, with Council deputies making between $100,000 and $137,000 a year according to figures posted on the state Controller’s Office website. The $137,000 salary comes with $38,294 in health and retirement benefits. The five Council deputies also have their own employee union.

In Los Angeles County, city council members in Compton, which has a population of 96,000, have full time deputies that are paid $47,568 a year. In Inglewood, whose population is roughly 111,000, city council members represent specific districts and each has an assistant who is paid between $21,000 and $50,000. In Pasadena, a city of 140,000 where council members also represent districts, each has a field district representative hired directly by the council member rather than by the city. Perhaps the most relevant comparison is Beverly Hills, a city with roughly the same population as West Hollywood’s 34,500 residents. As is the case in West Hollywood, members of the Beverly Hills City Council also hold other full time jobs. But unlike West Hollywood, there is only one full-time assistant assigned to the Beverly Hills City Council. The salary range for that position is $52,283 to $64,543.

Several of the West Hollywood City Council deputies are known for not getting along with one another. City Hall insiders note that several of them routinely arrive to work as late as 11 a.m. and leave work early. And residents occasionally complain at City Council meetings that deputies do not respond to their inquiries. While the deputies technically are supervised by City Manager Paul Arevalo, his ability to manage the deputies is constrained by the fact that they are chosen by the individual Council members, to whom Arevalo reports.


newest oldest
Notify of
Bill V.
Guest
Bill V.

Councilmember John Duran has made a big point of underscoring how “qualified” Mr. Owens was for the coveted position of his deputy– an important role in the community with a six figure salary. Whether or not Mr. Owens was qualified is completely besides the point. It was WILDLY inappropriate for the Councilmember to hire his Grindr trick for this position. This action really speaks to Mr. Duran’s judgement (or lack thereof.) It is unlikely that Mr. Duran will find reelection to the Weho city council.

ambiguousbodywork
Guest

Oh no! This kind of sexual harassment can not be tolerated. They need to fire John Duran.

Brian Holt
Guest
Brian Holt

@Chris I work in a industry that allows me access to analysis of city/county pay packages. That aside, this story today on the cover of the LA Times underscores the rationale for rallying the pitchforks. Full-time LA city council persons’ packages for a city of 6mil vs. deputy salaries supporting a part-time council for West Hollywood, population 35thousand. You bet I have a problem with it. I have a real problem with it.
http://www.latimes.com/local/cityhall/la-me-election-council-pay-20150206-story.html

Guy Privaton (@guyprivaton)
Guest

Non-Full Time council with full time deputy

Change to FT Council with FT deputy and expect a much higher cost

Chris Sanger
Guest
Chris Sanger

Note Brian I said “if”. I await word as to what justifies these salaries, not leaping to conclusions like you and others are doing. Not sure why you or anyone would have a problem with this. Sure, I’m open to have this reviewed. Just providing a counter-balance to the usual pavlovian anti-WeHo gov’t brigade that operates in these parts.

Brian Holt
Guest
Brian Holt

@Chris Sanger wake up! This is out of control. In NO WAY NO SHAPE NO HOW should these deputies (or most other city employees) be “earning” six figure packages. Not for a city with a population of 35,000; no police or fire to manage (the county does both), etc. This is unchecked out of control waste. And the mere fact that council “picks” their deputies w/out a guarantee of a rigorous search for the most qualified candidate. And on top of it – they have a fuhreaking union to boot. Are you kidding me? This bell can’t be unrung…

Dr Love
Guest
Dr Love

When the city is in question of managing itself, its time to contact higher authority. I have found State Assemblymen to be helpful and to either look into matters or give the proper reference. I have contacted HUD, Assemblyman Richard Bloom and Governor Brown regarding West Hollywood Community Housing Corporation, who has over $1,200,000 in salaries for their employees yet insists they dont have $49 for grass seeds for the front of the Bungalows they purport to demolish. Something is wrong. Dont sit back and be frustrated, call the IRS, Attorney General, find out who is responsible to investigate these… Read more »

Scott T Imler
Guest
Scott T Imler

While I don’t want to discourage anyone from civic action that they think is appropriate, to answer your question as to “who is responsible” I would suggest that we the citizens of West Hollywood are responsible. These are all matters of public record, no doubt lawfully adopted after staff reports, two minute public comments, and Council member debate at a duly noticed meeting. As a General Law City the boundaries and procedures in making these decisions are pretty standardized. But what is legally established and what is politically acceptable are two different considerations and have separate mechanisms for investigation and… Read more »

Chris Sanger
Guest
Chris Sanger

What Scott T. Imler said. This city is unprecedented in my experience in the responsiveness of city agencies to citizen contact (based my my experience regarding a # of issues). If high paid ass’ts is part of this amazingly successful city, so be it.

Woody McBreairty
Guest
Woody McBreairty

Brian Holt: Keep it going. I’m with you. A lot of people are

Steve Martin
Guest
Steve Martin

What is wrong with this picture? One deputy feels he must use spy ware to document the illegal activities of another deputy? Can’t we trust our City Manager to handle this sort of issue fairly and effectively? Do we need an ethics ombusperson at City Hall? The way to deal with this is to make ALL email communications of the City Council offices public and prohibit deputies from using private lines. There needs to be a complete ban on electioneering, even to the point of banning deputies from discussing the election with third parties. Unfortunately every deputy fees compelled to… Read more »

Wehoan Fed Up with the NIMBYs
Guest
Wehoan Fed Up with the NIMBYs

Arrive as late as 11 and leave early? Who the heck is supervising these clowns? In any other job they’d be out on their rears. And yes, Owens’ resume prompts many questions as to how Duran decided he was qualified for the job…

BTW those salaries trump even the pay for many Council Aides on the LA City Council. Since when did West Hollywood’s council suddenly become as busy as the 2nd largest city in America? I wasn’t aware that organizing Go Go Boy Appreciation Day was such an undertaking…

Scott T Imler
Guest
Scott T Imler

West Hollywood residents are quick to assert that local government and its political leaders are isolated and unresponsive to community input and that the political process itself – or lack thereof – is an impediment to having a genuine voice in local affairs. This is often a common justification for having full time “deputies” selected directly by part time electeds. The Deputies are purported to be the eyes and ears of City Hall, charged with bringing the voice of the citizenry to the attention their Council member. While salary levels are outside of my general expertise, a quick look at… Read more »

Brian Holt
Guest
Brian Holt

This silly little drama between “so and so and what’s-his-face” may have important implications directly related to his job, but what it’s really done, in my opinion, is bring into question these unmatched salaries for potentially unqualified candidates (deputies). The fact is, this is a small city with minor issues facing it: parking, traffic, rent control, paparazzi pig heads and “do we have enough dog park space?” Seriously, which is why there is no need for full-time council. Let alone, a bunch of overpaid ass-kissing deputies. With each passing day I’m getting more fired up. I smell an LA Weekly… Read more »