City Hall Proposes to Draw the Line on Negotiations with City Council Deputies

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

The City of West Hollywood and the City Council deputies union have come to an impasse in their months-long negotiations over the city’s decision to abolish the council deputy system.

The City Council on Monday will be asked to approve a “last, best and final proposal” to the four-member union. Under that proposal, the deputies who currently remain on the city payroll would be laid off 45 days after receiving a formal notification from the city. Deputies who have been on the job for more than six months would be eligible for varying levels of severance pay. To date the city and the deputies union have been unable to reach agreement on the city’s offer.

Council deputy Scott Schmidt
Council deputy Scott Schmidt

Scott Schmidt, Councilmember Lauren Meister’s campaign manager, would receive compensation equal to 160 hours of his wage. Schmidt, who had been serving as an “acting” deputy before Meister made a formal appointment, managed to qualify as a union member one day before the council voted on June 15 to eliminate the deputy system. Longer serving union members such as Ian Owens, deputy to Councilmember John Duran, Michelle Rex, the former campaign manager for and the deputy to Councilmember John D’Amico, and Kiran Hashmi, the former deputy to former Councilmember Abbe Land, would be eligible for 280 hours of pay.

The deputies have been on paid leave since the June 15 vote. 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.

Under the proposal that will be presented to the City Council on Monday, the deputies may apply for any vacancies within the city’s civil service system. The proposal also will make official and final the Council’s June decision to eliminate the deputy system.

Newly elected Mayor Lindsey Horvath pushed through a proposal to eliminate the controversial deputy system shortly after the June special council election. The proposal passed on a four to one vote, with newly elected Councilmember Lauren Meister opposing it. Councilmember John D’Amico also expressed his opposition to eliminating the system but voted with the majority in what he described as an effort to put the contentious issue behind him. Several council members used the elimination of the deputy system to justify their decision in November to grant themselves a 50% pay increase, arguing that the workload for their part-time positions had increased. West Hollywood is unique among cities of its size and type in having had a deputy system. For example, Beverly Hills, a city of the same size, has only one city employee devoted to handling matters for council members. And its council members are paid almost half of what WeHo council members earn.

Deputy Kiran Hashmi
Deputy Kiran Hashmi

The council agreed to replace the 30-year-old system with one in which employees with specific skills would assist council members with scheduling appointments, drafting legislation and meeting with constituents. Those staff member report to a supervisor who would report to the City Manager. Under the previous system, deputies were selected by individual council members and essentially reported solely to them. While they were on the city payroll, several of the deputies acted in some ways as political assistants to their council bosses.

The system’s dysfunctions became public earlier this year in scandal dubbed “Deputygate” when the public became aware of the deputies’ high compensation, their internal squabbles and allegations that one deputy was spying on another.

If the council approves the proposal on Monday it is likely to be challenged in court. Michelle Rex and Ian Owens have filed claims against the city, with Owens alleging sexual harassment and retribution for reporting what he claimed was improper campaign activity by a fellow deputy Fran Solomon and Rex claiming retaliation for her support of Owens’ allegations. Solomon, former deputy to Councilmember John Heilman, has retired and is no longer a member of the deputy union. She also has filed a claim against the city, alleging she was the victim of bullying and harassment by Councilmember John D’Amico, who has frequently and publicly expressed his dislike for Heilman, and by other council deputies such as Rex and Owens.


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Williams
Guest
Williams

How is this the deputies fault? The CA labor law was broken by the City, by City Council. I think the greedy comments need to be refocused.

It is an HR and CA labor issue.

Lynn
Guest
Lynn

You’re fired!

WeHoMikey
Guest
WeHoMikey

As much as it’s being played out in public, this is just an HR issue.
They are all City employees and are entitled to the same benefits and termination notices that any other City employee is entitled to.
The one truly intelligent comment here is from a former Council deputy.
Two misplaced comments come from City Commission appointees (including one Commission Chair), which actually suggest that City Hall culture is the problem, not the Council Deputies themselves.
Commissioners, you’ve lost respect not just for yourselves but also for the commissions on which you sit.

Steve Martin
Guest
Steve Martin

Funny how the deputies are being blamed for the sorts of dysfunction and corruption of the Council members they worked for. Sex for jobs, campaigning on City Hall time, petty middle school bickering did not originate with the deputies themselves. Unfortunately, while the new Council support staff appears to be highly qualified on a number of levels, so far the new system does not seem to be making the City Council members more accessible to the public. The problem with the old deputy system lays clearly with the long term incumbents who fostered the dysfunction. No matter what we think… Read more »

Lynn
Guest
Lynn

Has Wehoville ever attempted to interview the two miscreants not an effort to let the public know why they richly deserve any compensation for their contemptible behavior? Mr. Owens appears to be a light weight opportunist whereas Ms. Rex appears to have seriously bought into the concept of destroying and degrading a fellow deputy and Councilmember. Ms. Rex had no place to go other than to run onto the rocks, having been manipulated into and then acquiescing to reprehensible behavior. Crying wolf and ultimately making herself and her Councilmember the victims was classic dirty tricks brought to you by former… Read more »

johnjx
Guest
johnjx

They were grossly overpaid and they continue to squeeze our City for more. Utterly shameless. It sounds like Scott’s not much of a “small government conservative” when it comes to his own pocket.

Josh Kurpies
Guest
Josh Kurpies

Kiran and Scott have done nothing wrong in this. One may disagree with Scott’s political views, but he did nothing wrong by accepting a legally offered position as Council Deputy, of which he was undoubtedly qualified for and immediately went to work on Mayor Pro Temp Meister’s public survey and parking initiative. Both Kiran and Scoot have acted responsibly here and have followed the directive of the City Council. Those two should be entitled (based on their duration of employment) to any salaries their colleagues are going to get – Kiran and Scott have had to endure all this, while… Read more »

Mike Dolan
Guest
Mike Dolan

The blame is solely on the offenders and wrongdoer’s (Kiran exempt) not the messenger’s!

Lynn
Guest
Lynn

Unfortunately Kiran Hashmi was unnecessarily caught up in this fiasco. The others deserve no more than the proverbial “lump of coal” in their Christmas stocking.

Jimmy Palmieri
Guest

I just wonder, with these former deputies acting so greedily, if they will ever get employment again? Certainly, many employers will look t them with trepidation.

Rudolf Martin
Guest
Rudolf Martin

Sounds like we have everything under control now. If it wasn’t for the brilliant oversight from our city manager, the strong leadership from our longtime council members and the eagle-eyed legal guidance of our city attorney, this whole deputy situation could have easily become a bit messy and ended up being a tad costly for the residents.

Chris Sanger
Guest
Chris Sanger

I’m sure Schmidt is talented. But his past work experience as a lobbyist and similar was with his fellow Republican oriented high end business groups (SFV Chamber of Commerce eg) where his job included opposing any progressive worker oriented proposals. He is a Republican himself, though social issue liberal apparently. His alliance with Meisner spoke volumes about her priorities.

Brad
Guest
Brad

Scott Schmidt had a lot of potential. Too bad for him, he just blew his reputation.