Opinion: Looks Like There’s Already a Bug in WeHo 2.0.

As two new City Council members were installed last night and two longtime incumbents departed, newly re-elected Councilmember John D’Amico welcomed what he called WeHo 2.0.

But now it looks like the latest version of West Hollywood already has a bug in it.

Scott Schmidt
Scott Schmidt

That bug is the decision by new Councilmember Lauren Meister to name Scott Schmidt, her political campaign manager, as her interim deputy. Schmidt made his way through City Hall today introducing himself as the guy who will be taking that job. In doing so, Schmidt may be joining the cast of “Deputygate,” a farcical and expensive drama that makes the West Hollywood City Council look more like something you’d find on Comedy Central than on WeHo TV.

The players in Deputygate are a group of well-paid city employees who have managed to politicize what should be civil service positions. In theory they report to the City Manager. In practice they report to the politicians who hired them. They have their own five-member union that publicly opposed one of the few (only?) proposals to address the Council’s ethical issues. That proposal, introduced by Councilmember John Heilman last year, would have barred former Council deputies from coming back to lobby their bosses on behalf of private clients. It was defeated in a three-to-two vote.

For those who haven’t been following Deputygate, the plot is simple and very political. Michelle Rex, deputy to and former campaign manager for John D’Amico, doesn’t like Fran Solomon, the newly departed deputy of Councilmember John Heilman. And Solomon doesn’t like Rex. Their bosses, Heilman and D’Amico, do not like one another either. But Rex does like Ian Owens, deputy to Councilmember John Duran. It was Owens who in February covertly distributed a list of telephone calls that he alleged Solomon improperly made from her office to solicit support for Heilman’s re-election campaign. That’s the sort of allegation that may have hurt Heilman (and benefitted D’Amico) in the March 3 election.

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)

Solomon complained that Owens was spying on her, and now he is under investigation by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department while still working as Duran’s deputy from his City Hall office. Owens is back in the office despite his allegation that Duran refused to act on his complaints about Solomon because he rejected Duran’s sexual advances. Duran has denied that allegation, although he has admitted to having sex with Owens before hiring him.

(Kirin Hashmi, former deputy to Abbe Land and the interim deputy for new Councilmember Lindsey Horvath, is the one deputy who apparently hasn’t auditioned for a role in Deputygate. The other deputy position will be filled when the fifth Council member is elected in the June 2 special election.)

In an email exchange with WEHOville, Meister cites Schmidt’s record working with the Los Angeles and San Fernando Valley chambers of commerce and the Valley Industry and Commerce Association. That and other experience, Meister said, is why she chose Schmidt for the interim deputy position. But even if Schmidt doesn’t end up playing a role in Deputygate, Meister’s decision to choose her political campaign manager as her deputy indicates a serious optical problem. And her statement to WEHOville that the City Manager should not have the power to manage Council deputies indicates Meister will not support the sort of changes needed to clean up the Deputygate mess.

We may know the truth of that soon. On March 2, the Council postponed action on a proposal to develop fixes to the deputy system until after the June 2 election. Now however Council members, perhaps reacting to the outrage expressed by WEHOville readers, are saying the issue will be on their agenda in April.

Until then we can count on the drama on the third floor of City Hall to continue to boost readership on WEHOville.com. But we’d rather find ourselves writing about the sort of creativity and innovation implied by the WeHo 2.0 label than about the drama that has provoked a reality TV producer to pitch a show about our City Council.


newest oldest
Notify of
ambiguousbodywork
Guest

Sounds like a lotta stress if you ask me. Not sure why all these people have such angst against each other?

David Reid
Guest
David Reid

@Rudolf Martin – I too am a registered republican (lower case ‘r’). I did so in 2010 in order to vote AGAINST that (insert worst word in world) Meg Whitless. She was so bad I jumped ship from Democrat to vote in the then party primaries. Besides I was pretty sure my god (lower case ‘g’) Jerry Brown would get nomination and my vote in the real deal election. BONUS PRIZE: The GOP secretary of state race included the nutjob that spearheaded the nationwide birther movement about President Obama. Why look up her name, but I did vote FOR her,… Read more »

David Reid
Guest
David Reid

If a deputy does not live within the city the message is “there is no one qualified that lives in the city to assist me.”
If a deputy is making well north of $100,000 they can well afford to live somewhere in the 1.9 square miles.
It wouldn’t surprise me if some of those outlying deputies counted their travel time as work time.
A deputy at this pay rate is not a 40 hour a week job.

luca d
Guest
luca d

you know, i’m not sure what you all are asking for. some sort of litmus test that proves purity and distance from the past is really unlikely and not realistic. i don’t know this fella schmidt, but for goodness sake, just because he worked a campaign does not disqualify him for the job. should it? if you look at recent presidents of the united states, they elevate campaign deputies and close aides and that does not mean they are corrupt. just a little advice to the writer and the readers of this opinion; don’t project your paranoia onto someone without… Read more »

Steve Martin
Guest
Steve Martin

It should be noted that John Duran and Jeff Prang’s campaign manager was lobbyist Steve Afriat; they never recused themselves from any vote when Afriat was representing a developer before City Council. Indeed Afriat did not need to be a deputy, he was as often as not calling the shots at City Hall.

Hopefully Lauren Meister’s interim deputy, Scott Schmidt, can turn her on to Grinder so she can post an opening for her permanent deputy.

Brad
Guest
Brad

Campaign managers should not be deputies. D’Amico started this toxic process of having a partisan campaign manager who was part of a vicious campaign… become the insider needing to deal with the others. Look whats happened to the 3rd floor since Michelle Rex came in. Neither Heilman, Duran, Land or Prang made their campaign managers deputies. It’s a quid pro quo and not ethical. In the case of Schmidt he has an awful demeanor, is very partisan, and you can find him at the bar bragging on most any night about his new job to be.. before it was announced.

Tom Smart
Guest
Tom Smart

I’m proud to say I am one of those people. Heilman and Duran are making back room deals with their Developer cronies and are bulldozing our city at warped speed. They have to go. We need to vote for a Slow Growth Initiative. Perhaps some Ethics too while we are at it since the council can’t seem to get around to it.

Bernadette Parinello
Guest
Bernadette Parinello

Don’t really understand all the hate for Scott. He has served on a few commissions & has participated in council meetings for years (& not just when he was running & and has been apart of our city even if he is a republicant which i dont get at all. The absolute TRUTH is that he is immenseley more qualified to serve as a Councilperson’s Deputy than John Duran’s deputy & we all know they met on grindr & that he likes to allegedly eavesdrop on peoples’ personal phone calls and WAAAAY more qualified then Michelle Rex who I dont… Read more »

Chris Sanger
Guest
Chris Sanger

As I told you guys for years, the Trojan horse initially was term limits, always a Republican notion, the campaign spear headed by Schmidt. I questioned Meister about her progressive/Dem credentials in a phone conversation in which we were going to discuss when to have coffee. It was I pressed her on this that she turned cold on me. Does anyone anywhere have any evidence of her Dem/progressive credentials other than bland crowd pleasing shibbeloths? Proposing we make Cesar Chavez Day a free parking holiday in WeHo doesn’t really count. She didn’t look confident Monday night (Horvath ran circles around… Read more »

Rudolf Martin
Guest
Rudolf Martin

Lynn, you might be on to something.

“Deviant Deputy – The Scott Schmidt Story” Tagline: The Only Republican In Town: In a staunchly progressive town with rainbow crosswalks an opaque interim deputy with a hidden republican agenda is pulling the strings of his council member puppet.

I’m sold, please don’t stop.

Lynn
Guest
Lynn

LOL! Truth always stranger than fiction.

Tom Smart
Guest
Tom Smart

Can I call for Horvath’s recall anyway??? LOL

BC
Guest
BC

Some of the comments in this thread are nauseating. Tone down the hate, people! Some of these comments are completely absurd and paranoid. Sheesh.