EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to note former City Council Deputy Scott Schmidt’s contention that he did not negotiate with Mayor Lauren Meister, his former boss, about LA Pride on behalf of CSW. Schmidt told WEHOville that me only met with Meister and Councilmember John D’Amico, the other member of the council’s LA Pride subcommittee, to plan last month’s community forum on Pride.
The City of West Hollywood will pay a total of $105,000 to settle claims filed by the union representing the now-dismantled city council deputy system.
The payment — $35,000 each to Kiran Hashmi, Michelle Rex and Scott Schmidt — brings to $630,000 the payments by the city associated with the dismantling of the 30-year deputy system, not including legal expenses.
In February the city settled a lawsuit brought against it and Councilmember John Duran by Duran’s deputy, Ian Owens, for $500,000. Owens claimed that Duran has sexually harassed him and that the city had ignored complaints he made about alleged misbehavior by another deputy. Both Duran and Owens have denied those claims.
In July, the city agreed to pay Fran Solomon, former deputy to Councilmember John Heilman, $25,000 to resolve a complaint she had made to PERB alleging that she was the victim of bullying, harassment, intimidation and defamation by Councilmember John D’Amico and by other council deputies. Her complaint about D’Amico was dropped with the PERB settlement. Solomon retired from her deputy position before the system was eliminated.
This latest settlement filed with the state Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) does not address a lawsuit against the city brought by Michelle Rex, the former campaign manager for and deputy to Councilmember John D’Amico. Rex, whose lawyer also represented Ian Owens, is seeking unspecified damages for her allegations of wrongful discharge, retaliation and failure to prevent retaliation by city officials. Schmidt, no longer a city employee, had been hired by Christopher Street West (CSW), the producer of the controversial L.A. Pride event, and met with Mayor Lauren Meister, his former boss, and D’Amico to help plan last month’s community meeting regarding Pride. City law bars former deputies from lobbying city officials, except when they are working for a non-profit organization, which is the case with CSW. Schmidt told WEHOville that he has ended his work with CSW to avoid any appearance of impropriety.
Publicity about Owens’ allegations focused local residents on a variety of problems with the 30-year-old deputy system that some labeled “Deputygate.” In the deputy system, each council member got to hire his or her own personal assistant with compensation, including benefits, that ranged as high as $200,000 a year.
Residents and City Hall staffers complained that some deputies worked as political operatives for their bosses, some didn’t work regular hours and some interfered with the work of other city employees. The third floor area of City Hall where the deputies were housed was known for its hostile atmosphere in which some deputies would not speak to one another. The council, prompted by then-Mayor Lindsey Horvath, eliminated the system in June 2015.