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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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 to remind people of anything or everything Duran has ever done to cross over the line of what others may deem proper.

    It should be noted that the city hired an independent private investigator that concluded that there was no harassment of Owens by Duran at city hall. While other facts are true as to how Owens was hired without disclosure, it is also true that the city hall failed to do the required background checks.

    1. 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…

  3. 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!

  4. 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 think it is the Little Rascals having a show. The travesty decisions, bought and paid for, to destroy Plummer Park cost a bundle – renderings, floor plans and ridiculous ideas for underground parking, destruction of historical buildings, old growth trees and the greedy stupid advocates of the whole fiasco were thwarted by three determined women and their volunteer, mobilized supporters and indeed all those people saved Plummer Park.

    Attorney Duran – the half million dollar liability who loves horses, should have simply stepped down. (Or been smart enough not to bring his honey to work with him). The shadow of #Metoo still exists, long, dark and very destructively. It is no more palatable or offensive for gay men to denigrate women or other men, or men to do it to women or for women to do it to women. – knowing full well that in the age of “everybody knows”; it won’t be on the sly for long. Maybe the city could end this ridiculous revolving mayor door and have actually “elected mayors” with tenures and terms. What a concept. And if any council member brings special interests to the table or under it – perhaps the folks in WeHo should have demanded resignations.

    We praise ourselves profusely as a “city that is all-inclusive”. Describing a faulty sewage citizen complaint as: “as old as 100-year-old box” raises many questions about Mr. Duran’s views and what he thinks is professional.

    FYI: I just saw the city’s performance of “The Vagina Monologues”. Many in the audience had some aging pipes. But those that do don’t require hydraulics to keep them young.

  5. 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 city hall.

  6. 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?

  7. 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 the other Johns. And Horvath has been most vocal in the #MeToo movement. If the City is sincere in its foundation of not tolerating sexual predators this would be the logical action. Politics is a tricky sport. Remember the end game, actual accomplishments is what counts in the long run. But along the way it is imperative that policy statements are made through actions. Bold actions like it would take to challenge tradition. It would be the right thing to do.
    Remember three of the council seats are up for election in 2019.
    It is a honor to serve as mayor of West Hollywood.
    The office should be held by and honorable person.

    1. 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.

  8. 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 before it comes up? The fact that we dont really have a independent “mayor” its just a label the council members each get a year to ride the spin on. A gay city getting gentrification, where no 20 something gay has a chance to afford the rent. With three sitting gay council members driving policy? A robo garage that came from the back room of city hall, not the public’s request? A project on Kings Road a majority of the residents that live there didst want and the council says sorry that’s what the zoning code we created and steward allows? In my opinion the weho democracy needs help. Thank God we got term limits on the books, for the next generation to not have to live with the same power hungry “public servants” that see council as their right not their duty to serve and do the peoples work. Campaign finance reform that went no where, Individuals on the Planning commission for decades as political favors, approving more mega density into a small city already in gridlock during rush hour. And I agree with Steve, is this the best we can do in weho? Or expect from our elected officials? And this is what we as a community keep agreeing to either indirectly or directly? And for those of us who have spent the time to be tuned into to policy, to be attacked as council haters, or Heilman haters or whatever, when our intention is to leave a better democracy to the next generation? Or NIBYS. Thank You Steve for shining a light on the facts. The question is will enough resident care? Or even vote in the next election? And is it pretty much the same old same old in the election, any one new who runs splits the vote enough so the incumbents always win? I came to West Hollywood 24 years ago for what it was to a young gay man, a place to feel safe and see others just like myself. And it had a unique identity and energy. Now as our city leaders saw yes to more height and density of luxury apartments and our council members to many are doing the work of the billboard lobby, or the real estate lobby, or the city contractors lobby. I wonder if its to late for weho to correct its course, before its gentrification is its final stop. On what could of been a different outcome.

  9. 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.

  10. 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 acquaintance of West Hollywood’s Ed Buck whose unsavory acts and tragic story of a young black man dying in his home has been covered accessively in the media. It is very well known that Duran has a very close association with developers amid continued accusations of “pay to play” political shenanigans. On top of this, the Ian Owens affair and the half a million dollar payout by WEHO to avoid a trial.

    The coming months until next years election could result in a “Clean Up West Hollywood” campaign, with everything being scrutinized, utilizing social media on a lot of issues that makes one wonder, again, who owns the city, such as the developers or the citizenry.

    This is not going to away.

  11. Appreciate wehoville and Steve Martin. I am not here to put someone in a place where they are rejected for behavior that happens from passion good or bad. However, I do believe it would be best for Mr. Duran to take accountability for his behavior. A carefully written statement regarding the issues in your Jan 25 article and now this one. In addition the residents need someone to find out how he can legally be blocked from acting as mayor for West Hollywood. I want to know from Mr. Duran what his thoughts are. We are all human and mistakes are the process of life and how change occurs within us. Any person in the public eye will always be under public scrutinity. I am only concerned with the 1/2 million dollars the city paid out and what would the next law suit bring if any as mayor. This city cannot afford the risk at this time. The same holds true for president Trump. We are all passionate and the replies in the Jan 25, 2018 were so absolute. If there is no reply from Mr. Duran. The city has mediation services for landlord/tenants. He needs to be taken off the cities insurance policy as mayor. I cannot even guess how much the premium will go up.

  12. J.V. – It would seem to me that supporters of Duran are just as slavishly devoted to him as are the supporters of Trump. Neither one, in the eyes of their supporters, can do no wrong. Also, we had yet another election with too many candidates to fragment the vote which the incumbents rely on.

  13. Yes to all of the prior comments. But the mystifying question remains . . . how did Duran get reelected in this last cycle, particularly in an election that occurred AFTER the Deputygate scandal. We all knew what this pathetic Peter Pan attorney-councilman is like, and yet enough people voted for him to put back into office. I was speaking to one of the other council persons recently, and (s)he confided that (s)he feels Duran not only should not be mayor, but should resign and rid West Hollywood of the embarrassment associated with him.

  14. I think most would agree with you that he should not be named mayor. But what actionable steps can we take to prevent it Steve?

  15. Incredibly well written and well documented Opinion piece. Would be nice to see Steve Martin back on the Council, a voice of reason representing everyone.

  16. Duran is an expensive habit and a liability. He might be lauded by local charity’s for getting money from developers to help them but he is nonetheless a liability and should have been put out to pasture years ago. He cost the city and it’s insurabce company money that we home owners and tax payers covered. He has no understanding of boundaries and is not reliable or appropriate. Frankly it’s time for some new voices and yes as our Mayor he would continue to be a sustained embarrassment

    1. Anthony, how is it that all of this was known, yet John Duran got reelected? Almost everyone in West Hollywood is disgusted with Donald Trump and the Republicans, but we have a “look the other way” policy in our own town.

      1. I suspect it’s based I’m a few things. Low voter turnout, apathy by most voters who will vote on state and county races but don’t vote for city races, and money. Duran has developer friends, store and club owners who are happy to help him maintain the status quo. Voters are numb and not just here but in many cities and I think they feel their vote won’t matter to when it can but without a unifying candidate who is willing to raise money and have a message beyond getting rid of Duran it’s just the same people who have been around too long and who are actually holding the city back from being more than it is. Voters need to be educated, aware and given a call to action. That’s how change begins

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