WeHo City Council Meeting Gets Ugly in Discussion Over Deputy Suit Settlement

Council Member D'Amico on the $500,000 settlement with a forme…

Councilmember John D'Amico makes a courageous and bold public statement at last night's WeHo City Council Meeting on the $500,000 payout to a city employee Councilmember Duran had sex with and then hired as his six figure salaried deputy

Posted by WeHo Residents Alliance on Tuesday, March 8, 2016

City Councilmember John D’Amico sympathized with controversial former Council deputy Ian Owens and strongly criticized fellow Councilmember John Duran, City Manager Paul Arevalo and other city leaders tonight in comments on the city’s $500,000 settlement of a lawsuit that Owens brought against the city and Duran alleging discrimination and sexual harassment by his boss.

In comments that shocked many observers, D’Amico called out Duran for viewing Grindr, the gay hookup app, on his mobile phone during City Council meetings and at other civic events. “For years I have glanced over and seen John trolling on Grindr for men,” D’Amico said. “I can no longer agree to believe that we can give John Duran a pass.”

John D'Amico
John D’Amico

Duran has acknowledged meeting Owens on Grindr and having sex with him before hiring him for the deputy position. D’Amico also criticized Duran for failing to tell the city’s Human Resources Department about his personal relationship with Owens before he was hired. Both D’Amico and Duran are gay.

D’Amico criticized Arevalo and LuNita Bock, the city’s former human resources director, saying that their failure to properly manage the city staff and respond to complaints Owens said he made about his peers were factors in the controversy that has become known as “Deputygate.” And he criticized City Attorney Michael Jenkins for not having yet released a report by private investigator Steve Rodig, who the city engaged to investigate the deputy situation.

Owens sued the city after it launched an investigation last year into allegations of misbehavior by the city’s highly paid deputies, who effectively reported directly to the Council members to whom they are assigned rather than the city manager. The investigation was prompted by Owens’s distribution under a fake name of a document alleging that Fran Solomon, deputy to Councilmember John Heilman, was improperly campaigning for her boss’s re-election. The document contained what purportedly were direct quotes from Solomon on telephone calls asking people to appear for a photo shoot for Heilman. When she learned of that, Solomon said she was concerned that Owens was bugging her office.

John Duran
John Duran

The incident focused public and media attention on the 30-year-old deputy system, which is unprecedented in cities of the size and organization of West Hollywood. The system has been plagued, especially in recent years, by backbiting among the deputies that reflects the animosity that some of their Council bosses feel for one another. For example, Michelle Rex, the campaign manager for and deputy to D’Amico, and Fran Solomon would not speak to one another. For a time D’Amico and Heilman refused to speak with one another either, and the two still have a fraught relationship. Deputies also have been criticized for being unresponsive to local residents, for not working full days, for interfering with the work of other city employees and for trying to influence city government through their five-member union. Public outrage over the deputy system enabled Mayor Lindsey Horvath to push through a measure last summer that eliminated it.

D’Amico said he believed that Owens was “bullied and shamed” by City Hall officials and described him as simply “a young city employee who needed more supervision.” D’Amico said he spoke up about Duran and Owens because it “is my fear that this kind of thing may happen again.”

D’Amico also said the Council had agreed, apparently privately, to have a public discussion about Council member conduct. He urged the Council to schedule it at its next meeting.

Duran reacted heatedly to D’Amico’s comments, calling out Michelle Rex, D’Amico’s deputy, as part of the “Deputygate” problem. “Your deputy Michelle Rex … She and Mr. Owens were doing a political stunt,” Duran said. “This was always about politics, politics arranged by your deputy and my deputy.”

Duran, as a party in the lawsuit, said he already had read the investigator’s report. He said interviews with city employees showed Rex and Owens were “two of the most detested employees at City Hall.”

In earlier comments tonight, Duran said he wanted to apologize “for hiring a friend. I shouldn’t have done that. But I will never apologize for sexual harassment because I didn’t do that.”

Duran said he regretted, but understood, the city’s decision to settle the Owens lawsuit for $500,000 rather than contest it. The city’s insurance group will cover the cost of the settlement and pushed the city to settle. “If I had great wealth and could have afforded my own attorney I probably would have wanted to go all the way,” Duran said, but he acknowledged that the process would have been painful for the City Council and city employees.

Arevalo objected to D’Amico’s implication that he and other city officials were nonchalant about allegations of sexual harassment. He noted that Owens’ allegation that he had been sexually harassed by Duran came to his attention only when reporters called asking for the city’s reaction to that allegation in the Owens lawsuit. In a comment that he said was directed to city employees, Arevalo said: “It is my duty and my responsibility to give all of you a safe environment. I have done that, and I will do that.”

Arevalo also said the investigator’s report hadn’t been handed to Council members because City Attorney Jenkins had to carefully review the 500-page document and redact names of city employees whose disclosure would violate laws intended to protect employee privacy. The report also had to be provided to Owens attorney for his review before it could be given to the Council.


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[…] John Duran, who was accused at a March meeting by Councilmember John D’Amico of “trolling on Grindr for men.” Grindr is a mobile phone app that gay men use mostly to find sexual partners. It is […]

LOVE NO HATE
Guest

We as the people of WEHO deserve to know the TRUE.
What are we portending not to KNOW.
We must start to talk only the facts and the TRUTH, even if it doesn’t look good.
our leader should first lead by example.

Manny
Guest
Manny

@Disco Dan—Don’t be so sure about that. LOL

Dimitri Perparos
Guest

<—–(Posting as myself, never having seen the need for a "nom de blog") Is there a way to just prohibit Duran from running in the next election?? Let's face it, there's no way in hell he will step down (as I'm sure he does not think he's done anything wrong), and a recall so close to the next election is out of the question. Being completely in the developers' back pockets, he will surely win again if he runs for reelect seeing that the majority of voters don't know or even care about this backstory. The only way to prevent… Read more »

Dan Morin
Guest
Dan Morin

Chris – Methinks you have a case of paranoia. And I do NOT share your unsubstantiated view that most people reject my and Ty’s “advice.”

Chris Sanger
Guest
Chris Sanger

To state the obvious, most people who post here and other blogs do so with nom de blogs for excellent reasons. Hank has spoken to this point and approves of it. There are too many crazies out there, including WeHo, to take the risk. It makes absolutely no difference in the quality of the thoughts presented by people here. Ty and Dan – I totally reject your advice as of course do most people here.

Ty Geltmaker, Ph.D.
Guest
Ty Geltmaker, Ph.D.

In support of Dan Morin’s point:

We can never become afraid to say who we are and what we honestly think. Once we cave into such fears and flights into anonymity there can be no honest conversation or civil society. That is the joyful risk of being a live citizen in an open society.

Dan Morin
Guest
Dan Morin

Chris – Truly sorry to learn of your negative experiences but openness is a hallmark of a free society. Why don’t you have an unlisted phone number? But prroviding a home address is possibly asking for trouble. However, no one can miss me when I wear my pink overcoat.

Chris Sanger
Guest
Chris Sanger

Dan – some of us use aliases because of concerns about being harassed by others. I used my real name at WeHoVille and found myself subjected to harassing phone calls and a possible vandalism incident after I defended the council over the Tara development. It’s crazy out there, and sometimes a tiny minority on the other side thinks having knowledge of one’s identity is licence to make trouble.

LOVE NO HATE
Guest

Ty Geltmaker,thank you.

Ty Geltmaker, Ph.D.
Guest
Ty Geltmaker, Ph.D.

To the anonymous Man of Reason who has no courage to name himself: Ivy Bottini was silenced not just by a ruling of the Mayor, but with an extraordinary intervention by the City Attorney. And yes, sometimes, protocol can be broken in order to accommodate a free exchange of ideas, especially when the person already speaking (whose name is invoked otherwise for honors by those who would claim the high ground) might not have all night to hang around until the bitter end. This is called “consensus,” and how grassroots groups operate, not to mention politeness allowed to the sages… Read more »

Dan Morin
Guest
Dan Morin

And, Man of Reason, why do you find it necessary to hide behind an alias ?