As Negotiations Continue, Former City Council Deputies Prosper

West Hollywood City Council deputies Michelle Rex (left) and Ian Owens.
West Hollywood City Council deputies Michelle Rex (left) and Ian Owens.

While their positions were eliminated on June 16, West Hollywood’s City Council deputies continue to be well paid, even as two of them have filed claims against the city contesting the elimination of their positions. The city currently is in negotiations with the five-member deputy union, a step required before it can stop paying the former deputies.

Kiran Hashmi
Kiran Hashmi

Information provided to WEHOville by City Hall shows that the four former deputies have received salaries and benefits ranging from $52,226 to $37,322 through the Oct. 16 pay period — four months after their jobs were eliminated. Fran Solomon, deputy to Councilmember John Heilman, had retired and isn’t receiving any pay.

Michele Rex, who had served as manager of Councilmember John D’Amico’s election campaign as well as his City Hall deputy, has filed a claim against the city seeking unspecified amount of damages because of the elimination of her position.

Ian Owens, deputy to 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. That suspension occurred after Owens emailed under a false name alleging that Solomon was improperly calling people on behalf of Heilman’s re-election campaign. Owens has also alleged that Duran sexually harassed him, a charge Duran has denied.

Scott Schmidt was working as an interim deputy for Councilmember Lauren Meister, whose election campaign he managed. Meister had said she would interview other candidates before deciding whether to make Schmidt’s assignment permanent.

Scott Schmidt
Scott Schmidt

Hashmi, who had been the deputy to former Councilmember Abbe Land, had not been permanently assigned to any council member when the system was eliminated.

While Solomon voluntarily retired and did not lose her job, she has filed a claim against the city alleging that she was the victim of bullying, harassment, intimidation and defamation by Councilmember D’Amico and other Council deputies.

The elimination of the deputy positions, which Mayor Lindsey Horvath pushed forward immediately after taking office, ended a 30-year system that some residents praised for providing them better contact with City Hall. However others were critical of the system because of the high salaries of the deputies, their lack of supervision and the fact that some of them appeared more focused on their council member’s political career than on city issues

Some Council members have used the elimination of the deputy decision for the Council’s decision on Monday to give itself a 50% pay raise, arguing that their workload has increased. The raise, the Council’s first in 10 years, makes the West Hollywood City Council the most highly compensated in the area based on its number of residents. By state law it cannot take effect until after the March 2017 election.

Compensation of former Weho City Council deputies from June 16 to Oct. 16.
Compensation of former Weho City Council deputies from June 16 to Oct. 16.

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WeHo Thom
Guest
WeHo Thom

This is why I voted for Larry Block. He would’ve had this mess cleaned up. Council is nothing but a joke, with their petty bitching, sniping and back-stabbing taking center stage. Residents keep re-electing the same ineffectual members and fought term limits. See where it’s getting you?

Long Time City Resident
Guest
Long Time City Resident

We need a new, experienced City Manager – enough already. From the moment you walk in the City offices door, City Clerk included, one is met with personnel with an entitled attitude – & a lot of attitude. In West Hollywood, you learn to fend for yourself. The salary & future pension obligations are outrageous.

Disco Dan
Guest
Disco Dan

The City will not allow any of these suits to go to trial. The City will settle with a provision that no one divulge the financial compensation rather than the truth being disclosed in an open court.

Rudolf Martin
Guest
Rudolf Martin

Exactly, Flores! We hire 5 employees at the whim of individual council members, let them do political work with no supervision by city manager, give them big salaries and spectacular benefits and even their own union? Then we terminate them on a whim knowing full well we have to keep paying them in full? Then we expect them to not insist on the terms of their contracts and if they do they are greedy and ungrateful people? Larry has a point: If we knew we had to keep paying them, why didn’t we assign them to different tasks that are… Read more »

Flores St.
Guest
Flores St.

Agreed with the thoughts here that the deputies are not to blame. I have worked in management. There is a right way to terminate and a wrong way. And if you do it the wrong way, you will pay.

Woody McBreairty
Guest
Woody McBreairty

Kudos again Steve

Scott T Imler
Guest
Scott T Imler

I agree with Steve that the elimination of the Deputy System, legitimate concerns notwithstanding, was a politically expedient mercy killing, rather than a thoughtful consideration of alternatives that would further community interests, enhance public participation in the legislative process, or improve constituent services. To her credit Mayor Horvath recognized the inherent dysfunctions of the system and had experienced first hand the new era of “power-bottom” campaigning based on attacking the virility of incumbants rather than promoting one’s own vision and qualifications for the job. It seems to me that he part-time nature of the Council members positions, the City’s basic… Read more »

Steve Martin
Guest
Steve Martin

Please note that Fran Solomon was John Heilman’s deputy, not John Duran’s. Unfortunately the decision to eliminate the deputy decisions was a political one, made in haste, with little public input and indeed no real thought of how exactly the residents would be served in the future. As it appears the Council received faulty legal advice, the former deputies are still a financial and political liability for the City. I see a lot of folks demonizing the former deputies when in fact much of the dysfunction and dishonesty that became part of a previously well run system was due to… Read more »

Christopher
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Christopher

Obscene is too good a word for this travesty.

Larry Block
Guest
Larry Block

If they are still getting paid lets put them to work with a broom and a mop and start cleaning the bathrooms and cleaning public spaces.

Chris Sanger
Guest
Chris Sanger

It would be hysterical if Schmidt joined the union. He is a Republican activist whose previous work has included lobbying for business groups (including the Valley Chamber of Commerce), many of his lobbying duties including trying to stop things like union rights and increased minimum wage laws.

Alison
Guest
Alison

Hashmi should not be on the continuing payroll if you ask me. Kirin was not assigned to anybody when the Council Deputy system was abolished. Abbe Land had already left. Either put this person in another job or cut them loose. Kirin was not a Deputy anymore. As for Scott Schmidt, he had just come in and was not a Deputy permanently yet. Why is the City continuing to pay him? Even Meister had said she would interview other candidates before deciding whether to make Schmidt’s assignment permanent. It seems like the system is being milked. I like and respect… Read more »