Opinion: With the Ian Owens Settlement, We Got a Deal!

We got a deal!

Yes, the idea that Ian Owens, former deputy to Councilmember John Duran, will be paid $500,000 to settle his lawsuit against Duran and the City of West Hollywood is upsetting. (Although the taxes and legal fees Owens will pay, and the impact this will have on his future employment prospects, likely will substantially reduce the real value to him of the settlement).

Ian Owens
Ian Owens

But consider this: The $500,000 payout (which comes from the city’s insurance plans) and the tens of thousands of dollars paid as the city negotiated the elimination of the deputy positions are the result of a smart move to end a 30-year system (with its five-member union) that was unprecedented in a California city like ours and was plagued from the beginning by misconduct.

The deputy system was created in 1984 when the new members of the new city council of a new city found themselves overwhelmed by requests for help from local residents and queries from reporters who wanted to cover the launch of the first LGBT-majority local government in the nation. With few full-time city employees, they needed help.

However the deputy system quickly evolved into a political mess. Paul Brotzman, WeHo’s first city manager, told WEHOville in an interview last March that “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.”

That only got worse in recent times, when the Council deputies, working through their union, had the gall to lobby (successfully) against a proposal by Councilmember John Heilman that would have barred them after retirement from returning to full time jobs at City Hall. The deputies also interfered with the operation of city government in other ways — issuing public statements that had an impact on the city’s reputation but weren’t vetted by appropriate city staffers, arguing among themselves and snubbing one another and other city employees, emailing out (under a fake name) a purported list of telephone calls by a colleague, campaigning for their council bosses subtly and explicitly. Yes, there were talented and conscientious deputies (Abbe Land’s Kirin Hashmi comes to mind). But over all the system conflicted with the basic concept of West Hollywood’s city manager form of government.

So let’s consider the end of “Deputygate” a learning moment for a 30-year-old city that still has some cleaning up to do. (The city must still contend with complaints filed by former deputies Michelle Rex and Fran Solomon).


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robert
Guest
robert

Lesson learned: don’t hire people based on their performance in bed after you find them on grinder.

the city manager and lawyers should be fired and Duran recalled. end of story

Next?

David Reid
Guest

This is all so deja vu. Does it ring a Bell for anyone else?

Randy
Guest
Randy

Mimi, just to clarify, insurance is covering most of this, from my understanding. I still think it sets a bad precedent to settle, especially with other lawsuits against the city by other former deputies. And it covers up the details of what happened. It doesn’t hold any accountability for Duran’s failure to report his prior relationship to Owens with Human Resources. Once again, even if he didn’t sexually harass Owens, he should have known that that prior relationship could have opened the city up to these types of accusations. I was recently watching analysis of the OJ trial, because that… Read more »

Mimi
Guest
Mimi

so now we have to wonder, since the city is so quick to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to “make things go away” how much they’ll pay Michelle Rex and Fran Solomon? Where is the LA County DA in all of this? How is it possible that this is all going on directly under the nose of the city manager paul arevalo??

Sick & Tired of Their Egos
Guest
Sick & Tired of Their Egos

Shame on City Hall and John Durran. City Hall the new Grindr!

Dan Morin
Guest
Dan Morin

Duran should have had the decency to resign. But what really upsets me is that the residents of West Hollywood are paying via one form or another for his legal fees. He must be voted out next year. And I knew the City would settle because the trial would bring forth all the truth that the City wants to remain unknown to the public. And, I assure you that this will be the same with Rex and Solomon.

Josef
Guest
Josef

While I can see some of the points of the article, i think any deal where John Duran retains his seat on the city council is a bad one.

carleton cronin
Guest
carleton cronin

Gawd! I was beginning to feel that WEHO was was falling behind in scandals but, being a Boston Irishman, with politically sensitive whiskers, I just knew something would turn up. Interesting to me at this time because I am sorting through 30+ years of WEHO correspondence, mementos and photos and, lo, at the bottom of the pile (now about twenty pounds in weight)along with my “5 year employee” coffee mug, is a picture of the first City Council. Anybody remember Valeerie Viterbi? One of our early dustups.

Steve Martin
Guest
Steve Martin

The deputy system was very successful for many years; it was only in recent years when the deputies began to reflect on the Council members dysfunction and even exacerbate it. When John D’Amico got elected, John Heilman refused to speak to him and his deputy Fran Solomon refused to speak to D’Amcio’s deputy. In years past the deputies used to socialize on a regular basis and went out of their way to serve the public rather than be pawns in the petty power struggles at City Hall. While I was surprised by the outlandish salaries the deputies were making, they… Read more »

Jim Nasium
Guest
Jim Nasium

Woody, “the genesis of all the problems” is not who you think.

Randy
Guest
Randy

Boris, Duran did not create the deputy system. He wasn’t even on the Council until about 10 or 15 years ago.

And what evidence do you have that deputies “did almost no work for the community?” I’m not defending that system, and I think it should have been dissolved. But I’ve heard comments from many city dwellers about how helpful these deputies were to some of them.

J.V.
Guest
J.V.

John Duran is a DISGRACE!!! For many reasons – involving his past and present behavior both publicly and privately, and as a so-called attorney who gives even that dubious profession a bad name. He is an extremely vain and immature man who makes the entire gay community look bad. If he will not resign and leave public life, he should be recalled, impeached or whatever needs to be done to remove him from office and not be able to inflict his obnoxious immaturity on the public any longer.