WeHo’s Deputygate: The Time to Fix It Is Now

What now?

1) One City Council deputy is under investigation for possible criminal activity.

2) Another Council deputy is alleged to have solicited political campaign donations from her office.

West Hollywood City Council deputies Michelle Rex (left, 2014 compensation $189,583) and Ian Owens (right, 2014 compensation $149,610)
West Hollywood City Council deputies Michelle Rex (left, 2014 compensation $189,583) and Ian Owens (right, 2014 compensation $149,610)

3) A third deputy, a career political operative, has a reputation being nasty to her peers and, a Council member claims, egged on the Council deputy accused of spying on a third Council deputy.

4) One of those deputies was hired after meeting his boss on a gay hookup app and having sex with him.

5) Several of those deputies are notorious for not showing up for work on time.

6) Several of those deputies had the audacity to publicly oppose (through their five-member union) a proposal that would have barred them from lobbying the Council for commercial clients after leaving their city jobs (A proposal that failed because three of their bosses — City Council members — agreed with them).

West Hollywood City Council deputy Fran Solomon (2014 compensation $158,995)
West Hollywood City Council deputy Fran Solomon (2014 compensation $158,995)

7) None of those deputies are subject to proper supervision, given that their real bosses (the Council members who hired them) also are the collective boss of the City Manager to whom the deputies allegedly report.

8) All of them command ridiculously high salaries — most of them more than twice the $54,000 annual income of the average West Hollywood resident, with incredibly generous benefits on top of that.

Could there be a more dysfunctional system? (We’re waiting for Larry Block to campaign for our city flag to be labeled West Follywood).

Efforts to quickly fix this mess have met opposition from a couple of Council members who want to “study” the matter. That is a classic “kick the can down the road” approach the Council has taken when confronted with controversial issues such as campaign reform. We’re betting it will involve appointing a two-person Council ad hoc committee (three people would mean that under state law the ad hoc committee’s deliberations would be open to awkward public scrutiny).

West Hollywood City Council deputy Kiran Hashmi (2014 compensation $134,188)
West Hollywood City Council deputy Kiran Hashmi (2014 compensation $134,188)

That’s a way to bury this controversial issue until after the March 3 City Council election, when the heat will be off the Council members running for re-election and any change in the deputy system likely will be window-dressing. Kicking the can down the road also will benefit some of the challengers in the upcoming election, most of whom have been quite wishy-washy in their responses to questions about the deputy system (after all, what person holding a full time other job who wins a Council seat wouldn’t want a full time City Hall lackey to do his or her bidding?)

As we’ve noted previously, West Hollywood should do what many other small and well-run cities do — create a group of employees hired by and reporting directly to the assistant city manager to provide services to the Council members. Each employee would have a specific job — managing schedules and events for the Council members, developing policy initiatives, responding to calls from residents. That works well for Beverly Hills, like us a small town with about 35,000 residents and an at-large City Council.

John D’Amico pledged that this would be a year of “fresh air and daylight” when he was sworn in as mayor last April. So far it’s been a cloudy year. We’re hoping that the clouds finally will part and the air will sweeten at the March 2 City Council meeting with the introduction and passage of a measure to quickly fix the expensive, unethical and dysfunctional mess on the third floor of City Hall.

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Oliver Francis
Oliver Francis
5 years ago

all these council staff need to go. why isn’t damico’s staff under investigation? people say this ian didn’t make a single move without getting directions from damico’s aide – rex. sounds like the mayor had two people inside city hall doing his dirty political campaign work and on the city payroll to boot. damico has a nixon like circus circling over his city hall office and it all points back to him.

Riley
Riley
5 years ago

Does Bell ring a bell? Not the council member situation, but the general feeling that the public does not know what is actually going on.

David Reid
David Reid
5 years ago

WEHO does not need a full time highly paid council. It is 1.9 square miles. A bigger question is, why are these deputies all not from West Hollywood, Solomon lives in Marina del Rey. The majority of her $150,000+ salary, plus expenses is spent outside West Hollywood. Should there not be an agreement that deputies should come from within the city and only WHEN NO QUALIFIED PERSON ABLE TO SERVE AS A DEPUTY IS NOT FOUND WITHIN West Hollywood you go outside the lines. That would be step one. The City Manager and his $400,000+ salary also does not live… Read more »

Guy Privaton (@guyprivaton)

The answer is not to give the over paid / non-elected city manager more control over the deputies.

Full time council is the answer

SaveWeho
SaveWeho
5 years ago

I’m the first to admit some of the council members underperform..but come on…”deputy-gate”? So Solomon used her phone to make some calls. You know ever single one of you have used your work phone for something other than work. How many of you have updated your resume on company time? You’re being silly with this. Secondly, so what if Duran met the guy on Grindr. You dont think there are a dozen other people that have met other individuals in other ways? Are you going to monitor where and how people meet? I’ve had many coffee dates I’ve met with… Read more »

Brad
Brad
5 years ago

Let’s not forget it is JOHN DAMICO who was THE DECIDING VOTE AGAINST campaign reform. Heilman brought this item forward to increase transparency and all DAmico did was complain it aimed at Michelle. He whines and complains he has no partners but when the vote was split 2-2 he went with Duran and Prang to vote against reform… then he makes nominal disclosures to look like a hero, but when it counted his vote was AGAINST CAMPAIGN REFORM. There has been no reform. He has accomplished little, and that is completely transparent.

joetheplummber
joetheplummber
5 years ago

Mr. Martin: were you looking for a date or a job?

Woody McBreairty
Woody McBreairty
5 years ago

Sam Borelli, I’m glad you posted your article. I knew you’d run for CC before but had no idea what your agenda was. I agree in some cases with your take on John D’Amico & not on others. I’m glad that John took the action he did on banning fur, a symbolic gesture against animal abuse is better than none at all. Hurting business? How much fur is sold in this small city with high summer temps all year long? Weak argument for condoning world wide animal abuse. Tho many cities & countries around the world already ban the use… Read more »

Very Concerned Citizen
Very Concerned Citizen
5 years ago

I am sorry, although there are any number of good comments on this article I cannot help but notice NOBODY has pointed out some very obvious things: (1) Regardless of how Ian Owens got the information about Ms. Solomon, why is she not being investigated for HER alleged actions? Since she is alleging that Mr.Owens “bugged” her office then I imagine what he allegedly said he heard her talking about is true. I for one have still not understood why all she got for past indiscretions (fraudulent use of city credit cards) was a “naughty Frannie, don’t do that again”.… Read more »

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
5 years ago

Thanks for everyone’s constructive comments. I was checking on Grindr and I noticed that the City has not posted any openings for a new City Manager.

James 'Jim' Chud
James 'Jim' Chud
5 years ago

Okay, it is my turn now. Let’s just put this whole exercise into perspective. If anything like the reprehensible behavior exhibited by Councilmember Duran and his deputy happened anywhere else in the nation, The councilperson would have, by now, resigned if they truly cared about the well-being and reputation of their city. Otherwise, petitions would be all over the place for either a recall election, or demanding an official investigation of the entire deputy/councilmember process by means of special prosecutor or grand jury. Period! Why is it that every year, Mr. Duran is involved in some sort of questionable behavior,… Read more »

Sam Borelli
5 years ago

To back Larry up, and as I referred to in my Op-Ed, many West Hollywood residents have been treated poorly by Ms. Rex. She may be Mr. D’Amico’s Deputy but she is paid, quite well, by the people of West Hollywood. There needs to be a standard of decorum that other deputies have been able to practice with the public that they serve.
http://www.samborelli.com/#!Why-I-would-never-vote-for-John-DAmico-for-West-Hollywood-City-Council-/c6xs/D2571384-6E88-47EE-9C23-73D8F2BA1D79

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