Deputy Ian Owens Sues WeHo and Councilmember John Duran

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

Ian Owens, the deputy to West Hollywood City Councilmember John Duran, has filed suit against Duran and the City of West Hollywood alleging he was wrongfully suspended on false allegations of spying on a colleague when he was actually trying to report unlawful activity.

In the suit, Owens claims he was the victim of retaliation for reporting alleged misconduct and that Duran sexually harassed him instead of helping him. He’s seeking unspecified damages in the lawsuit filed Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court.

City Attorney Michael Jenkins did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Owens was placed on administrative leave in January after the city launched an investigation into allegations that he had bugged the office of Fran Solomon, an aide to Councilmember John Heilman, and emailed a chronicle of her private conversations under a fake name to local journalists and residents. Later Owens was allowed to return to work while an investigation into the allegations continued.

The suit states that Owens did nothing wrong and heard Solomon’s conversations “through the walls” since Solomon’s office was next to his. “Importantly, at no time did Mr. Owens ever record any conversations of anyone at City Hall or otherwise break any laws,” the suit says.

The conversations Owens overheard led him to believe Solomon was involved in “illegal electioneering and fundraising,” according to the complaint.  In the politically and personally charged deputy offices on the third floor of City Hall, Owens is known to be a close friend of Michelle Rex, the deputy to Councilmember John D’Amico. D’Amico frequently and publicly expresses his dislike for Heilman and worked for his defeat in the March 3 City Council election.

Owens began working as Duran’s deputy in August 2012. His suit alleges Duran “made sexual advances and/or sexually suggestive comments to Mr. Owens well over 100 times” and that Duran failed to protect him against the city’s alleged retaliation for his email about Solomon. Details of Owens’ allegations are reported hereDuran has admitted to WEHOville that he first met Owens through Grindr, a gay hookup app, and had sex with him. However Duran said that he didn’t have sex with Owens, or solicit sex from him, after hiring him.

In a statement today, Duran said: “Mr. Owens never accused me of sexual harassment until he was caught and walked out of City Hall for his wrongdoing. The city has hired an independent investigator and I know my name will be cleared. This sexual harassment claim against me is meant to deflect attention away from his own misconduct at City Hall.”

The city also issued a statement:  “The City of West Hollywood is aware that a complaint has been filed by Council Deputy Ian Owens in Superior Court naming the City of West Hollywood and Councilmember John J. Duran as defendants,” it read. “The City’s outside investigation of the events giving rise to this complaint has not yet been completed.  The City’s legal team has not yet had an opportunity to review the complaint and has no comment on it at this time, other than to note that the City prides itself on providing a workplace free from harassment and discrimination.”

Each of the five Council members has a full-time deputy, chosen by the Council member. WEHOville’s revelation in January that Owens was the source of the allegations about Solomon has sparked a heated debate about what some call “Deputygate.” Among the criticisms of the system are that some of the deputies, who make as much as $190,000 a year including benefits, don’t come to work until 11 a.m., take long lunches, don’t respond to residents’ telephone calls, engage in illegal campaign activities for their bosses, spy on one another’s telephone calls, snipe at one another and interfere with the work of other city employees to promote the political interests of the Council member to whom them report.

The deputies have their own five-member union, which took a stand in opposition to an ethics reform proposal by former Councilmember John Heilman that would have barred the city from rehiring former deputies for city jobs. Two of the Council members, John D’Amico and Lauren Meister, have hired their political campaign managers for the position, injecting a political aspect into what is technically a civil service position. The Council in April postponed a decision on reforming the system until after the June 2 election.  However Mayor Lindsey Horvath successfully introduced a measure that establishes a formal process for evaluating candidates for the deputy position rather than leaving the decision solely to the Council members.


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Demons and company
Guest
Demons and company

Shink could be D’Amico’s Demon like D’Amico turned out to be Duran’s Demon. Lucifer didn’t fall alone he had company! John D’Amico has a lot of company – Ian Owens, Heidi Shink, Team Rex & Nahum, Scott Schmidt. Frightening!

Aww – Remember the good old days, when there was just fighting in weho between Martin & Prang.That was so silly, this is the real deal.

Chris Sanger
Guest
Chris Sanger

Seriously Disco, in WeHo you’re going to get 5,000 signatures (extremely difficult) to get a recall vote based on a gay hookup? Really? Many people would assume the people collecting the signatures of being an anti-gay group.

If he runs again, the voters can decide in 2017, as should be the method in the absence of any further proved information. If you want to get rid of members because of their choice of deputies, then Meister and D’Amico, both who have politicized the position (Meister’s is a career Republican) should also be recalled.

Disco Dan
Guest
Disco Dan

I was and spoke at the May 4th City Council meeting in opposition to the Kings Road proposed OVER-development. During my time in the chambers, I consistently noted Mr. Duran immersed in looking downwards and RARELY looking at residents who were expressing their views. How incredibly disrespectful and dismissive of him !! Duran, just based on the sexual encounter and, supposedly, continuing sexual harassment of Owens should resign and, if not, perhaps, the residents will recall him as he GRINDS his way out the door !!! As an addendum, I think that ALL city council members should leave their cell… Read more »

DK
Guest

John Heilman’s biggest ally left on Council is John Duran, who has been fundraising for and campaigning for Heilman. Until Heilman returns every single penny raised for him in connection with Duran, Heilman’s supporters have no room to lecture Heidi Shink on ethics. Especially not when Heilman is also taking hundreds of thousands in pay-to-play money from corporate developers — talk about ethically dubious. Heilman selling out West Hollywood to the highest bidder while cozying up to the likes of Duran shows he is the least ethical candidate running. Duran’s Grindr-hiring antics are now going to end up costing WeHo… Read more »

Jim Chud
Guest
Jim Chud

The comment by SaveWeho above expresses the exaspiration I frequently feel when I think about how this city was founded and how the early days were. It reflects, unfortunately, a shift in the Entire Gay Community away from feeling like a united entity that rallied around AIDS and descrimination as an ‘all for one and one for all’ group. Fair is still fair and unfair is still unfair, but as Weho has, like everywhere else, reacted to life becoming much harder for some and easier for others. The difference centers around financial means and wealth. There are still programs in… Read more »

Guy Privaton (@guyprivaton)
Guest

Deputygate
every council member ignoring reform
Meister chose campaign manager
D’Amico chose campaign manager
Horvath will probably be a political acquaintance too

they all talk big
but do nothing different
deputy is a reward system for political allies
same as all positions so ive heard
the formality of hiring is a ruse

Steve Martin
Guest
Steve Martin

Talk about ethics, what about having your deputy campaigning from City Hall? I don’t think anyone who is a beneficiary of a $120,000 developer funded “independent expenditure” campaign is in any position to lecture Heidi Shink or Cole Ettman on ethics. John Heilman’s ally, John Duran has been the bag man soliciting the funds for “United for West Hollywood” which seems ethically dubious at best. Professor Heilman will accept Duran’s endorsement but not shake hands with John D’Amico? Talk about twisted priorities. If Professor Heilman had any integrity, he would be calling for Duran’s resignation today. The only way to… Read more »

Chris Sanger
Guest
Chris Sanger

West Hollywood voters are faced with a central question – do we really want the ethically dubious Shink or Ettman to add to our problems? Of course not. Anyone supporting either of these two really isn’t in a position to criticize Duran. (For the record, I’d prefer he not seek reelection in 2017.)

Flores St.
Guest
Flores St.

Another special election coming soon?!

Rudolf Martin
Guest
Rudolf Martin

And yet, Mr Duran still insists that Ian Owens was the best qualified candidate for the job when he had the city hire him with our money. Go figure.

I welcome Lindsey Horvath’s effort to return some dignity to the hiring procedures at city hall.
The absurd 5 member union and the exorbitant salaries must be addressed as well.

Randy
Guest
Randy

Yes, Mr. Duran should have disclosed to HR that they had a prior relationship before the hire. He put the city in a vulnerable position by not doing so.

That being said, it does not mean that Duran committed sexual harassment.

Conrad
Guest
Conrad

I had it all wrong. I was using monster.com and a local staffing agency to eventually find a job with paid vacation and benefits. I wish someone would have Informed me of the high paying city jobs available by simply logging on to grindr and setting up a late night interview at Duran’s apartment.