As the Council Seeks Another Deputy, WeHo’s 1st City Manager Explains the System’s History and Problems

Are you looking for a job with an annual salary of $82,000 to $104,000 (which could be as much as $174,000 when all the benefits are added in), reporting to a part-time boss who’s rarely in the office?

You don’t need to go on Grindr to apply. The city has just posted a notice that it is recruiting a full-time deputy to serve newly elected Councilmember Lindsey Horvath. The deadline for applications is April 10, well before the April 20 Council meeting at which some Council members have said they intend to address the scandal on the third floor of City Hall that has become known as “Deputygate.” (The Council punted on the issue on March 2). The job posting suggests that the solution won’t include getting rid of the expensive system, which is unprecedented among L.A. County cities organized like West Hollywood. Indeed, newly elected Councilmember Lauren Meister already has hired her campaign manager, Scott Schmidt, as her “interim deputy.” And Mayor John D’Amico continues to express support for his deputy and former campaign manager Michelle Rex. Political insiders are predicting that Horvath will hire her campaign manager, Estevan Montemayor. (Horvath currently is traveling overseas and couldn’t be reached for comment).

The Deputygate scandals — which include allegations of highly paid employees spying on one another, doing political campaigning for their bosses, showing up for work late and leaving early, interfering with the work of other city staffers, refusing to speak to one another and in one case having sex with the boss before being hired — may have been surprising news to some.

But to Paul Brotzman, West Hollywood’s first city manager, none of that comes as a surprise, although he admits to being stunned by some of the details (like the fact that the five deputies have their own union that takes stands against city policies that would affect them). Brotzman was named WeHo’s city manager in April 1985, just months after the area known as West Hollywood was incorporated as a city. It’s a position he held for 12 years.

Paul Brotzman
Paul Brotzman

Brotzman now is retired to Hawaii after a career working at various small cities in California. In an interview with WEHOville he explained the genesis of the expensive and contentious deputy system, which he opposed from the beginning.

The system of full time assistants was in place when he took the city manager job, Brotzman said. The new City Council was the first in the nation, if not the world, to have a gay and lesbian majority, which attracted media attention worldwide. And the Council members, who had full-time jobs elsewhere, were overwhelmed by calls from residents, the news media locally and internationally and others. Given that the city was a startup, there were few staff members on board to help.

“When West Hollywood was incorporated it was the first city in the nation where a majority of the Council members were gay or lesbian,” Brotzman said. “Back in the 1984, 1985, for a politician that was extremely unusual. It attracted an enormous amount of media attention. I remember the first (Council) meetings I attended there were banks of television cameras from all over… ”

Brotzman replaced Fred Bein, who had been hired as an interim city manager to get things organized. “He recommended strongly against this (hiring the deputies, then called aides). But the Council members were feeling overwhelmed.”

“When the Council asked me for my recommendation whether they should continue the program, I said no,” Brotzman said. “I did not feel like the expense was justified. That was based on my experience having worked in three other cities prior to coming to West Hollywood. The system was a rarity except in very large cities such as Los Angeles.”

“In most cities, the normal approach is that citizen requests for services are referred from the Council members to the city manager’s office. The city manager then refers the requests to staff members to follow up on the requests.”

Brotzman said some of the deputies performed well, and there was one benefit to the deputy system. “It eliminated a lot of petty tasks for me, like complaints from a resident about a neighbor doing something improper on his property.” Those were addressed directly by a deputy.

“But there were enormous risks, and I saw some of them come to fruition. At one point we had a Council employee working at the direction of a Council member to undermine a policy that was adopted by the majority of the Council.

“There always was a list of Council deputies working to make sure the Council member was re-elected. Obviously they had a self-interest in that. If you’re working on your own time, that should be okay. But if you come in an hour late because you’re doing campaign work, are you really working on your own time?

And, Brotzman added, the system is “a nightmare for a city manager because the city manager works at the pleasure of the City Council. If you have a Council deputy that you have alienated, you have someone trying to undermine you at City Hall. On the one hand technically you’re their boss or partial boss. On the other hand they have influence over the people who are hiring and employing you.”

“I think the cons outweigh the pros.”

  1. Dear city council & members of community. A moral compass , dignity does not need to extend an invitation of a great paying part time Job compared to rest it community it serves. it requires to serve in good faith , fair wages yes, but most all.
    bring value, listen those of heart bring, community together an to serve ….period..

  2. @Don Jones “The city council and city manager often say West Hollywood is a small city with big city problems so I have no problem with the city council people having full time deputies.”

    Do you believe everything they say?

  3. Nothing changes if nothing changes. We all know the elephant in the room. I hope you all consider the future when the RECALL JOHN DURAN campaign kicks off in the next few weeks. He is the cancer. Kudos to our new city council members who have purged and began to clean house with transparency, a moral compass, dignity, character and integrity. Qualities Duran and other members of the former velvet mafia council lacked.

  4. I think reform is needed of our Deputy system. Its clear a majority in the community want it reformed and also we have not been well served as a community by the present system of late with all the undue attention brought to our city by less than ideal hiring practices of MR Duran. Its time for reform. The residents and the city as a whole deserve it

  5. Paul Brotzman was fired almost 20 years ago. West Hollywood was a very different city in the 90s than it is today.

    The city council and city manager often say West Hollywood is a small city with big city problems so I have no problem with the city council people having full time deputies.

    What I do take issue with are the inflated salaries of supervisors, analysts and managers making above $125,000. Those are middle management positions with upper management salaries. These numbers do not include the benefits dollar amount which for most of them are in the $50-$60,000 per employee range.

    There’s a code compliance manager making around $150,000 plus benefits. Really?

  6. I don’t think it would be wise for the City Councilmembers to ignore this very important information & opinion by Mr. Brotzman, it is very revealing . I wish Mr. Brotzman would clarify & expand upon some of his comments which I think would provide very valuable information for the voters & would help them understand why the City Hall squatter should be permanently evicted on June 2

  7. Once again. Just a note. More than one phone call has prompted me to post here. If you see “Lynn” it is not me. I have no problem owning my comments when I make them.

  8. Dimitri: Perhaps a starting point would be making an appointment w Paul Arevalo or his staff to fill you in on the possibilities and probabilities.

    As for Fran Solomon, apparently she was not known to John Heilman prior to being hired as a deputy and had to undergo rigorous interviews, resume scrutiny and other details in order to obtain the position. Many deputies have followed this path and a few have been hired as a result of personal contact, functioning as campaign managers or whatever. Did some of the standards slip? Evidently, and they should be addressed rather than poisoning the well. What does seem a difficult issue is a separate union to look out for the interests of the deputies and how the issues supporting it differ from normal staff positions. Could this loophole be what Brotzman may have been referring to?

    Disclaimer: I do not have any favorites in this ugly scenario and/or with other council members and their deputies but I do have opinions based on fact as to whether or not various individuals have acted in a proper manner commensurate with their position and in the best interest of the city.

  9. Brian – congratulations on a new low on petty attacks re Horvath taking a vacation now. Let’s look at this as any normal informed person would:

    — She was working at a full time job and campaigning for several months
    — There was a brief window after the election before she was sworn in when she had transition responsibilities
    — The council is, because there are 5 Mondays in March, on a 3 week break
    — She becomes mayor soon, when she will have extra responsibilities
    — Council members don’t get “vacation pay” of course – that’s not part of the structure

    Only writing this because if this isn’t stomped out others likely repeat it as though it has any validity.

  10. It’s never gonna happen. Nothing is going to change at City Hall.
    What I want to know is…
    1). will we ever know the outcome of the “investigation” of deputy spying on deputy??
    2). will we ever know the outcome of the “investigation” of sexual harassment charges??
    3). what (if any) consequence will the accused face if found “guilty”??
    4). what (if any) consequence will befall the accuser if the accused is found “innocent”??
    5). if Heilman wins in June, will he be bringing Solomon with him as deputy again??

    I think I know the answers to all of the above, which leads me to my final question…
    Who do WE go to (or where do we go) to then voice our concern that everything was just swept under the rug??

  11. The job title should be changed and all the now known deputies should have to re-apply for their new jobs at a lower paying rate with new defined duties and report directly to the City Manager not the Council Members. As it stands now these jobs appear to be political or friendship payoffs. Those deputies that no longer desire the jobs , good luck but the party is over.

  12. There you go again Woody, confusing speculation with facts. You seem to be refocusing the aim of the original Save Tara folks that spawned an unnecessary and very personal Hate Heilman and Hate Abbe & John campaign. The accusations never made sense then and still don’t but it would have been easy to become brainwashed. Some of their original operatives conceived a strategy to get at Heilman by way of combing the public documents for evidence of yet unproven misdeeds on the part of Fran Solomon. Not satisfied with their legal victory against the city, the mission continued in their own failed campaign to elect a triple threat slate and eventually gained ground in support of John D’Amico.

    A poorly orchestrated version of a palace coup occurred with an overly fabricated spat between Ms. Rex and Ms. Solomon, further amplified by a mind boggling made up scenario from Mayor D’Amico challenging Mr.Heilman and whining about “not getting along” in public. Did the public need that airing? Meanwhile the operatives still continue with their nefarious deeds.

    If you can recall Woody, what else in the recent history of deputies approximates this scenario? Perhaps the new mole and cohort should be rooted out because they seem to be kicking up all the dust. If all the city issues were actually focused on facts rather than personalities we might advance. Unfortunately malcontents, some even former council members, continue to hurl invectives from the podium then coyly attempt to curry favor on their particular cause. Even though they have lost value they never seem to give up on hate. Every issue needs three votes and its hard to see how this type of hate filled approach can be successful. Eventually hate agendas turn on themselves and consume the haters.

    All in all, Paul Brotzman made some excellent points that should be strongly considered.

  13. Additional thought: Why not have each City Council member paid a reasonable annual salary BUT that would be their SOLE and ONLY job and be at City Hall during all operating hours; save for events, seminars, public appearances, etc. Questions directed to them would be answered by a competent staff employee, thereby ridding WeHo of this Deputy scenario.

  14. Horvath’s traveling overseas? Hasn’t she been sworn in and expected to be working? Help me out here. Everyone is entitled to a vacation – but c’mon.

    Hank, please keep the heat on. Brian

  15. Jason, this is a part-time position, which she’s been in before. Councilmembers do not have to give up their entire lives for it. They have careers, and should be allowed time off, like anyone else. Also, there was a three-week gap between the last meeting, and the next one, where she will be sitting as mayor (I believe). If I were her, I’d want to take a vacation after a long election (assuming she’s traveling for personal reasons).

  16. Great to get some perspective. I doubt reform will ever happen as long as the old system benefits those with the power to reform it. My bet would be that we’ll see some meaningless admonishing ethics guidelines and the obligatory subcommittee to study the issue further but barring angry crowds with pitchforks in the council chambers there will be no change in the system.

    Is there any significance to the council punting that discussion towards 4/20, the national stoner holiday?

  17. Wait… Horvath is traveling overseas? She was just elected- did she not anticipate winning? She should be in West Hollywood getting accustomed to her new position.

  18. I think I can guess which deputy worked at the direction of a Council member to undermine a policy that was adopted by the majority of the council & it seems this continued to be a standard MO through the years for this person to control the agenda of the whole Council & get away with it. That’s only one of the reasons why this person must not be allowed back on the Council. This is not a healthy mentality for anyone who seeks a position of public service & it’s accompanying power. That said, it is also a matter of concern that the City Council members continue to support a system that has been so broken & so wasteful for so long. The Council members have no way to supervise these City employees, they know they are underworked & overpaid, still they make self serving excuses for the bureaucratic disorganized system that has caused so much turmoil & waste & distrust among City employees who should be working together for the good of the people instead of engaging in nasty internal political conflicts of their own making.This will be a good test of the judgment of the new Councilmembers as well as old ones, to see if they have answers to fix a long broken system that causes more problems that it’s worth. It would make much better sense & serve the City much better to have two or three staff members who answered to the Council as a whole instead of individual Deputies who seem to have their own agenda & fight against each instead of serving the best interests of the people. If this City Council does not act now to fix a long overdue problem that everyone knows needs fixing, they are remiss in their obligations to serve the City to the best of their abilities.

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