Three WeHo City Council Deputies to Depart with Severance Payments

The four City Council deputies on the City of West Hollywood’s payroll were officially dismissed yesterday following Monday night’s decision by the Council to eliminate the controversial deputy system.

west hollywood city hall, disabilities advisory boardThree of the deputies — Michelle Rex, deputy to Councilmember John D’Amico; Ian Owens, deputy to Councilmember John Duran, and Kiran Hashmi, acting deputy to Mayor Lindsey Horvath — are eligible to remain on the city’s payroll for 45 days in other roles and to receive severance pay under terms of the agreement executed with the city by their five-member union.

For Rex the severance pay is $14,770. Hashmi will receive $9,650, and Owens will receive $9,026.  Rex’s hourly compensation was $52.70.  Owens’ was $45.13 and Hashmi’s was $48.25.  Those rates do not include the value of benefits such as health insurance and retirement plan funding.

Scott Schmidt, Councilmember Lauren Meister’s interim deputy and former campaign manager, had not served the six months required to be eligible for severance pay.  Schmidt was paid $39.31 an hour.

City Hall staffers already have set up a system to address concerns of residents until a permanent City Council support system is established. That could take as long as six months as the city determines exactly what skills are needed and begins a recruitment process. Meanwhile, residents can reach Council offices by calling (323) 848-6460, at which point they will be directed to administrators who will direct your requests to the appropriate Council members.

The Council voted four to one Monday night to eliminate the 30-year-old deputy system and replace it with a system in which employees with specific skills would assist Council members with scheduling appointments, drafting legislation and meeting with constituents. Those staff member would report to a supervisor who would report to the City Manager. Under the previous system, deputies were selected by individual Council members who in the case of Meister and D’Amico chose their campaign managers. The system’s dysfunctions became public earlier this year in scandal dubbed “Deputygate.”

  1. I share Jeffrey Wards’s concern about the actual mechanics of a more technocratic Council support system, but it’s pretty clear that the “baby” had indeed already drowned in the 30 year old bathwater and a new start was necessary. I’m still not clear about how one staff member who might meet with constituents for all council members will enhance the public’s sense of actually being heard rather than just being more efficiently managed data.

    The City of West Hollywood has a unique opportunity here to craft a Council support system that truly values participatory democracy, elevates the importance of community / Council relations, and provides Council members the vital tools and support they need to sit as actual representatives of the people and to balance the competing and mutual interests of businesses and residents — consistent with the core community values laid down over the first 30 years of West Hollywood’s collective life. The City Council members can’t be the enemy of the people they purport to represent.5A credible and resilient Council Support system is worth the best effort we can make.

    I just want to add in closing that in the 20 years I have been in West Hollywood, there have been a fare number of full time Deputies and City staff who have served both Council members and the public with honor and integrity, often going above and beyond what might have been expected, breaking down barriers and acting courageously, when so many had their lives hanging in the balance of the AIDS pandemic. Deputies served wearing many different hats: keeping us informed, rallying us together, writing legislation and Council resolutions, directing us to social services and when there weren’t any – creating the ones we needed. They held our hands, laughed and cried with our joys and sorrows, listened politely to our dreams and disappointments, solicited charitable and federal grant money for our community-based projects, and nagged and bitched at us to take better care of ourselves so we could all take better care of West Hollywood. For many in the community the Deputy / constituent interface was the most comforting and enduring political connection they would ever have. The deputies were our big brothers and sisters in the new adventure called “City-hood.” As we try to replace the Council Deputy system, which has in many ways been a very personal and familial connection with something “new and improved,” I just hope we’ll try to remember the better angels and awesome contributions of West Hollywood’s full time Council Deputies.

  2. The perfect title for this new position should be call “council coordinator” and the pay should be $5,109 – $6,529 per month, like all other coordinators in this city position. $78,000 a year + benefits is very good package.

  3. Great, now lets hope the city doesn’t create some new bureaucracy that keeps the people from their representatives! I can understand administrative assistants but our city is to small to put up walls between those elected and those that elected them! Here, here, to a new structure that restores power to the people!

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