Opinion: Does West Hollywood Want a Misogynist as Mayor?

The silence has been deafening. Historically West Hollywood has on leading the progressive parade, taking pioneering stances on issues ranging from gay marriage, gender equality, animal rights and a host of environmental issues. But the #MeToo movement has left West Hollywood on the sidelines.

While the City Council recently passed a resolution supporting state legislation to create tougher guidelines on sexual harassment in the political workplace, it only timidly asked the City Manager to review our municipal policies to see if they reflected “best practices.” Based on recent events, I think the City Council can safely assume that our practices don’t reflect even the basic protections for our employees that have long been in place in the private sector.

Given the number of women who have served on the City Council and the unusual number of women who serve or have served as directors and department managers at City Hall, you would think that sexism and misogyny would be foreign on the third floor at City Hall. But you would be wrong.

Last year, we had a window into the culture of City Hall’s third floor during the trial of former City Council deputy Michelle Rex’s lawsuit for wrongful termination. All sorts of interesting tidbits came out: Campaigning from City Hall by a Council deputy on city time, deputies being expected to solicit charitable contributions for favored non-profits, and immature behavior by various Council members that would embarrass most third graders.

The most embarrassing evidence was revealed in a private email exchange between Council deputy Ian Owens and his boss, John Duran. In an email message, a neighborhood activist, who happened to be a woman, asked what the city was doing about broken water main on Sunset Boulevard. Owens forwarded that email from his personal email account to Duran’s personal email account, and he saved a copy of it all the was projected on a screen before the jury in the Rex trial.

“It’s a 100-year-old pipe,” Duran said in his email to Owens. “About as old as her unused box.”

It was disturbing how casually Duran made such an immature and crude comment about that woman’s genitalia. Here is a woman who simply complains about a problem to City Hall. The email from the woman was not the least bit antagonistic. But Duran simply blurted out the first thought in his head. And that first thought was both sexual and sexist.

That episode was in keeping with Ian Owens’ allegations of Duran’s crude attempts at work place seduction (“I’d bottom for you any day”) and also is in keeping with another prominent episode in the Duran saga.

That was Duran’s “we’re not all lesbians” taunt.

As many recall, Duran has run unsuccessfully three times for the state legislature and once for the L.A. County Board of Supervisors. In every race Duran wrapped himself in the rainbow flag, crying that “we need a place at the table.” In 2012, Torie Osborn, the lesbian former executive director of the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center, ran to represent West Hollywood and the Westside in the state Assembly with the endorsement of former state senator and current L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, also a lesbian. Her victory would have given the LGBT community that “place at the table.”

Osborn was challenging a one-term incumbent — an obscure Democratic back bencher with a very thin resume who had previously represented the South Bay. During redistricting, Assembly member Betsey Butler’s district was moved north, with an appendage of the new district taking in her home. While she was technically an incumbent, many felt she was essentially a carpet bagger in our community.

Duran endorsed Butler, whose only connection to the LGBT community was that she had been invited to sit on the board of Equality California. But Butler was the establishment candidate, and Duran suddenly decided that the need for an LGBT voice in the legislature was not so important after all. Duran not only worked for Butler but attempted to block Osborn in the LGBT community.

Osborn had a well-oiled ground campaign and mobilized volunteers who helped her sweep the local Democratic clubs, including the West Hollywood/Beverly Hills Democratic Club. As Osborn took the podium to accept the endorsement of the West Hollywood Democratic Club, John Duran stood up and started to heckle her, spewing obscenities, saying “this is bull shit.” Duran’s tantrum was captured on video by several witnesses. Standing next to his friend Ed Buck, Duran berated Osborn and the endorsement process. As he was winding down his rant, a woman said something to Duran about Butler being more organized next time and apparently referred to Duran as being misogynist. Duran responded: “I can’t be misogynist, I am working for a woman,” then he taunts the woman saying “we’re not all lesbians.” This bizarre episode can be viewed in the YouTube video above.

Duran, the supreme narcissistic, refused to acknowledge he had committed any wrong; he was just being “passionate.” But isn’t it odd that, in his passion, he had to be sexist and dismissive of lesbians? Anger is often the most revealing access to a person’s true beliefs.

After that 2012 election, Duran was not content to leave it alone. In 2014 as Sheila Kuehl entered the race to succeed Zev Yaroslovsky as our L.A. County Supervisor for District 5, John Duran suddenly jumped into the race. No one believed Duran had a chance of winning, he was simply playing the role of spoiler, hoping to split the gay and lesbian vote to derail Kuehl’s candidacy, which would somehow avenge Betsy Butler’s loss. Duran placed a distant third in the primary, losing West Hollywood by more than 2-to-1.

In the general election Duran obnoxiously endorsed Kuehl’s rival and campaigned against her. He wrote a long letter to the Los Angeles Times, claiming that Kuehl, a veteran Assembly member and state senator as well as a pioneering lesbian activist, held municipal government in scorn, discounting his own experience as being only “part time.” That was classic Duran, making the most out of a concocted issue. Our City Council members are part time, and Duran is the most “part time” of all of them. During the Ian Owens litigation Duran claimed he could not have sexually harassed Owens as many times as Owens claimed since he only came to City Hall two or three times a month. That is about as often as his colleagues are in City Hall each week.

John Duran has demonstrated his misogynistic tendencies by word and deed. His misogyny is not only a betrayal of West Hollywood’s community values, his denigration of lesbians is an even greater betrayal of the LGBT community.

West Hollywood can do better. We deserve better. While Duran and his supporters are quick to point out that he recently won re-election, note that Donald Trump also was recently elected. Winning the presidential election did not make Donald Trump any less of a sexually harassing misogynist. The same holds true for John Duran. Both men confuse elections with baptism.

Mayor Pro tem John Duran does not deserve the honor of being elevated to mayor of West Hollywood in the annual rotation that takes place in April. That would be a dishonor to us and our progressive values. Let’s hope our City Council has the courage to stand for our community values when it chooses the next Mayor of West Hollywood.


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Josh
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Josh

When do term limits kick in dump some of these Johns for us? Especially Heillman. For good this time.

NO ON DURAN
Guest
NO ON DURAN

Every time I read an article about John Duran or see him speak , I feel the need for a shower with soap and disinfectant. Being in tune with appropriate “philanthropic” entities does not a man of character make…….it is only current window dressing.

Larry Block
Guest
Larry Block

I wanted to ask JV if that council member s(he) who told him that Duran should not be mayor will actually say that publicly, because if not said council member is not worth their weight on the council. This is the second piece on Duran by Martin since Duran won the last election. I applaud Steve’s longstanding comittment, dedication and service to the community but we have 5 elected council members who can make that decision. I wonder if Steve will ignite the same fire under his favorite elected council persons to actually make change or is this all lip-service… Read more »

Michael G.
Guest

When you claim that city hall failed to do the usual routine background checks and disclosures…

Does that mean that the city asks questions something like this?

Did you secure your job by hooking-up on Grindr with John Duran and having a one night stand of intimate hot sex? Did this result in Mr. Duran offering you a fulltime job? If so, did Mr. Duran state that he had no further sexual interest in you, even though you are very attractive and sooo hot? Did he say he was only interested in your extraordinary intellectual ability?
Etc, etc, etc…

Don Myers
Guest

I finally joined Grindr about a year or two ago and, after only two hours, I started communicating with a headless photo that turned out to be John Duran! I said “Have you not learned anything from your mistakes?” Obviously not!

chloe ross
Guest

When I first moved to Weho in 1989 I realized that City Hall, by and large, runs like the Little Rascals having a show. I liked some of its ideas and but I objected to more than I supported. My first problem came after the little Headstart program in Plummer Park was up for cancellation. I was very upset because it seemed vicious and nasty to kids. I called O’Melveny and Myers, got to their pro bono department and found a lawyer to represent the kids. Head Start stayed. In my on again off again relationships with City I still… Read more »

Michael G.
Guest

The come to Jesus meeting with John Duran will be when voters make a complaint to the FBI. We did it in Palm Springs and PS was cleaned up last year when the last of a corrupt city hall cabal were history. It’s time for WEHO citizens to act. There are new faces, such as Duke Mason and others, who haven’t been soiled by “pay for play” politics. The FBI will listen and after the Florida shooting debacle could be very aggressive. That’s what WEHO needs to overcome our own local swamp of political hacks and what goes on in… Read more »

JT
Guest
JT

Welcome news about Palm Springs cleaning up their corrupt city hall! It can be done.

Don Jones
Guest
Don Jones

Duran said what about a WeHo neighborhood female activist?! Is this the first time we’re learning this disgusting tidbit? Looks like no women have commented on this.

Where’s the great supporter of women’s rights Councilperson Lindsey Horvath’s outrage? Where’s the Women’ Advisory Board statement condemning Duran? Where’s Hollywood NOW’s protest?

David Reid
Guest
David Reid

The Council is by no means obligated to select Duran as the Mayor. There is precedent for the mayor pro tem not be move on to mayor. Sal Guarriello in the 90s decided not to take the chair. How could it happen again? Aside from Duran doing the honorable thing —- a motion by a councilmember to put either Horvath or Meister as mayor could find a fast ‘second’ to the motion, and easily a third (majority) that would likely become four to one. It would be a more powerful statement if a woman was slotted instead of one of… Read more »

WeHoMikey
Guest
WeHoMikey

Not discounting David Reid’s suggestion, but D’Amico was “next in line” for the Mayor Pro Tem position. Putting him back in his rightful place of succession couldn’t very well be successfully argued against.
Between Duran & Co’s personal attacks on one of his female colleagues, and the pro-developer shilling by another, a D’Amico nomination would be tough to challenge.

Rudolf Martin
Guest
Rudolf Martin

Yes, West Hollywood definitely could and should do better.

Shawn Thompson
Guest
Shawn Thompson

I think the deeper piece also is how to we reset the weho democracy? With John Heilman on council since the city inception and pretty much the incumbents always getting the most donations from the various special interest in our city to stay in power. Is this a good democracy at work? Low voter turn out, apathy in the idea you cant fight city hall? Public comments seen as almost a burn to listen to by the council members? Meeting agendas so packed with policy that if you want to speak on an item you have to wait for hours… Read more »

JesseT
Guest
JesseT

In life, you are what you condone. It is beyond disturbing that our reps/govt/city hall must condone misogyny. Makes you wonder if the image of WeHo as caring and zero-tolerant of misogyny etc. is just a BS smoke screen created by the powers-that-be to cover up Lord Knows What.

Michael G.
Guest
Michael G.

No other city in America would tolerate this without the politician stepping down. Which prompts the question of whose running West Hollywood, John Duran? When does this stop? It seems like WEHO has created it’s own Boss Tweed. And there are many other issues with Duran. Like the DA investigation some years back about his expense account. The City of West Hollywood was prepared to defend him should Duran have been arrested and gone to trial. Then there’s Duran’s connection to Ed Buck and the thousands of dollars he took in campaign donations. Duran is obviously was more than an… Read more »