Day Three: Rex vs. WeHo Testimony Continues Focus on John Duran and Sex

Former West Hollywood City Council Deputy Ian Owens, left, with Councilmember John Duran (Facebook)

WeHo City Councilmember John Duran’s sexual banter and escapades were again a major focus in the third day of the trial in the case of Michelle Rex vs. the City of West Hollywood.

Both lawyers for Rex and for the city quizzed Duran’s former deputy, Ian Owens, about his allegations of sexual harassment. The result was a number of comments by Owens about the gay council member’s  sex life before the apparently heterosexual jury.

The trial in L.A. County Superior Court is about Rex’s allegation that the 30-year-old City Council deputy system was eliminated in June 2015 in retaliation for Rex’s defense of Owens, who exposed allegedly improper campaign activity by fellow deputy Fran Solomon, with whom Rex had a fraught relationship. As a result, Rex alleges, she has suffered emotional damage and lost her deputy job, which paid her as much as $190,000 a year when both salary and benefits are included. She is reportedly seeking $3 million.

Lawyers representing the city hope to convince the jury that the deputy system was eliminated because the City Council finally had concluded that it was dysfunctional and not because the city wanted to retaliate against one or two of the four deputies. Lawyers representing Rex have positioned the dissolution of the system as an act of retaliation against Rex and fellow deputy Owens and have highlighted his accusations of sexual harassment in an apparent attempt to make the issue more difficult for the city.

Michelle Rex

Today Owens repeated his testimony from yesterday that he had had to see photos from Grindr, the gay hookup app, of men with whom Duran had had sex when he updated the council member’s address book. And he said that Duran talked about frequenting a place on the city’s Eastside that had a “glory hole,” which is a hole in a wall or partition through which men can have sex. He said Duran also told him involved stories about wanting to have sex with a transgender man he found on Grindr who was known as Mangina and “who had female parts.”

Owens affirmed a statement by Jill Williams, a lawyer representing the City of West Hollywood, that he had told a city investigator that Duran had made “comments that he had bottomed for you, showed you pictures from Grinder …. That he wanted to have a three-way with your married best friend.” Owens said that best friend was Yawar Charlie, a local real estate agent who is a member of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission.

“According to you, he even commented on the size of your genitalia,” Williams said. “That’s pretty bad stuff.”

Owens acknowledged that he met Duran on Grindr and had sex with him once after moving to West Hollywood from Las Vegas. Duran introduced him to a recruiter and loaned him money because Owens was close to bankrupt. Owens described the well-known sex hookup app as a networking app and a place to socialize, which prompted a humorous response from Williams. “Is that the kind of networking you were doing to get a job?” she asked. “Grinder is not like LinkedIn is it? It’s not a forum.”

While Owens has proclaimed himself to be a whistleblower, he admitted under questioning from Williams that he had not complained about Duran’s sexual comments to any city official. Owens also acknowledged that he had not read a document provided by the city to new hires that offers various ways to report sexual harassment, including through an outside ombudsman who does not work for the city. Owens’ allegation of sexual harassment came in a letter from his lawyer two weeks after he was put on paid administrative leave while the city’s private investigator looked into his allegations about Solomon doing campaign work from her City Hall office.  Owens sued the city and Duran last year  for retaliation and harassment. The city settled the suit with a $500,000 payment and both it and Duran denied any guilt.

Steve Rodig, a former police officer who was hired by the city to investigate the Owens/Solomon matter, testified today that he determined that Solomon’s calls from her city office on Jan. 13 and 14, 2015, some of which were documented in Owens’ email, were a violation of the city’s administrative regulations regulating campaign activity. Her calls were not, however, determined to be a violation of the law by Rodig or the L.A. County District Attorney.

Rodig said that Owens had “engaged in conduct unbecoming a West Hollywood employee when monitoring Solomon conversations” and sending an email about the to news organizations although that also wasn’t a criminal act.

However Rodig concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prove that Solomon had pressured other deputies on a conference call to solicit improper donations from people doing business with the city in 2013 for a West Hollywood Community Housing Corporation event.

Mark Quigley, a lawyer representing Rex, said that Rodig’s report to the city said that “Mr. Duran did engage in making sexual comments in the workplace.” Rodig concluded that the comments were unprofessional and offensive, not sexual harassment, Quigley said.

The trial resumes tomorrow at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles. City Manager Paul Arevalo, who briefly testified today, will continue his testimony tomorrow. Also on the list is Lisa Belsanti, head of communications for the city.

  1. Politics is sleazy by nature but West Hollywood exhibits a unique brand of sleaze highlighted by the amateurish and embarrassing peccadilloes of its elected officials. Valerie Terrigno, Jeff Prang, John Duran, the deputy fiasco, there’s a recurring theme here. The people who turned West Hollywood into such a cesspool have betrayed our trust with their bad behavior.

  2. Both those soaps were cancelled – as was the deputy system to the dismay of the overpaid deputies. My understanding that Ian said he was a bottom but from Grindr that is not the impression I got. But what the hell. We are gay friendly city (thank heaven) and who does what with whom is info a straight jury may not even get. I reckon that all the money being paid to the deputies may have been a motivation for making them redundant. Suing the hand that fed you – as did Mr. Owens and Ms. Rex is pro forma in this age – I would suggest that looking even deeper into the way in which our fair little burgh is run would invite litigation and the drama that goes with. Sexual harassment and retaliation are not new. Just broadcast due to social media. And all of us should think twice before we air the dirty laundry. Or risk being very, very sorry.

  3. Well at least the testimony will give these jurors a little excitement in their lives. Better than “As The World Turns.” or “All My Children>”

  4. Larry’s post clearly states the obvious – Rex’s attorneys are trying to win the case by gaybaiting the city. She and Owens have had the strategy of making a fortune by shocking juries with irrelevant details.
    Anyone posting here who is gay or gay friendly and doesn’t get this is a fool and letting their Heilman and Duran derangement syndrome make them allies with the homophobes.
    Bless Larry for speaking the truth and exposing the Rex strategy.

  5. WeHo City Hall needs to be cleaned out top to bottom (pun intended) so that these horny idiots can conduct their sexual escapades on their own dime, not the taxpayers. Sick of all of them.

  6. My take away, $190,000/year?? Wow, aren’t we generous with other people’s money.Typical libs. Let’s review all salaries.

  7. Owens claims Duran told him about visiting an establishment on the city’s Eastside that had a “glory hole”. There is no such place in WeHo. Perhaps in years past, but no longer. Duran’s developer friends have Yuppified everything in that part of town.

  8. wait, I’m confused from the testimony above. Who was the bottom? I’m sure the jury will need that clarified….

  9. The mood was solemn. It was a small courtroom in dept 68 at 111 north hill street. I open the courtroom door and walked into the courtroom. On my left was a big screen that would block the view. On the right 3 rows. The first for papers and messengers. The second with only Michele Rex sitting along the aisle and in the third row sat city manager Paul Arevalo, just a foot or two from Rex. I took a seat in the second row and looked over to the other side to see a lone gentleman with a laptop in the corner peaking out from behind the big screen. Hank Scott from WehoVille was the only other person in the room.

    My vision is poor but it was not hard to notice a mostly white jury. Half the jury was white men. A quarter of the jury were white woman. It seems there was an Hispanic or Asian on the jury which was blocked by the podium.

    Rex lawyer was hammering the private investigator hired by the city to repeat and link and repeatedly talking about John Duran and Ian Owens. After an hour or more of nonstop sex stories it was clear that Rex attorney was trying to hang the Ian Owens – John Duran affair around the necks of the city to support its claim that the deputy system was eliminated due to retaliation.

    As a candidate in the 2015 election the elimination of the deputy system was a question asked to all candidates. But Rex lawyer was painting it as an evil plot by the city manager to retaliate against Rex and Owens. None of that was true. I approached counsel and explained that this was not an item initiated by th city manager or staff in retaliation but was a publicly debated question during the 2015 election with many citizens calling for the elimination or change to the deputy system.

    As John D’Amicos first disability board appointee i had direct dealings with Michelle Rex. And her off-putting manner disturbed me. I often complained to D’Amico but he thought she was wonderful until it became clear that Rex tone towards many was negative and rude.

    Plaintiff arguments should come to a close this week and the City of West Hollywood- the defendant begins its rebuttal later this week or starting next week. And I feel like my city is under attack unfairly- Rex deserved to be fired. She was a political hack and didn’t represent all of us. And to Hank Scott, the lone reporter in the courthouse, your service to our community is second to none.

  10. How stupid do Rex’s lawyers think the jury is?

    Rex claims she lost her job because the dysfunctional deputy system – of which she was a key part in making dysfunctional – was eliminated as a way to punish her for being a supporter of the whistle blower Ian Owens.

    Who blew no whistles until after he was caught in a clear violation of employee policy.

    Sure, tawdry stuff and titillating.

    But to the lay person it does nothing to prove her case, for which she has the burden to have the edge in terms of evidence.

    And the city’s lawyers, paid for by the insurance company on the hook if the city loses has yet to make its case. They likely have evidence to shred what little proof Rex has.

    There is nothing new here. It has nothing to do with Rex’s job being eliminated, which is what she is claiming.

  11. Geez, this is all so unseemly. Those deputies were extremely over paid. But I am sure a jury will give her some cash, they tend to do that.

  12. West Hollywood, We are getting so creative. so sad.
    corruption is part of our city.
    Just like i say many time before.
    people worry about TRUMP??
    Our city become city like any other city…
    few of our leaders have to go but $$$ control our city, not us, the resident of our city.
    Michelle Rex is an amazing leader, let’s not forget John D’ Amico is sitting as a concil member because of her. she is honest, bright women.

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