Despite Allegations of Sexual Impropriety and Solicitation of Money from Contractors and Developers, John Duran Likely to Be Named Mayor

west hollywood city council, ian owens, deputygate
John Duran being sworn in as mayor pro tem in 2017  (Photo by Jon Viscott, courtesy of the City of West Hollywood)

The City Council on Monday will decide who will assume the role of mayor of West Hollywood on May 21.

The Council is expected to name longtime Councilmember John Duran to the position, despite controversies Duran has been embroiled in involving allegations that he sexually harassed his former deputy, Ian Owens, and made sexually provocative comments to other City Hall employees. Duran, a gay man, also has been accused of making derogatory comments about women.

Duran is a criminal defense lawyer who has served on the West Hollywood City Council since 2001. He has a law degree from Western State University College of Law and a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from CSU Long Beach. Duran is a native of Los Angeles and has been a resident of West Hollywood since 1987.

West Hollywood’s current mayor is John Heilman and Duran is mayor pro tem. West Hollywood operates under what is known as “council/manager” former of government, where the position of mayor is largely ceremonial and rotates from one council member to another every year. The City Council, whose members have other full-time jobs, effectively is the city’s board of directors. It hires the City Manager, Paul Arevalo, whose full-time job is managing the city.

The person named mayor is charged with running the twice-monthly City Council meetings. The mayor also is the official signer of city checks and documents and is viewed as the official voice of the city. The mayor pro tem’s job is to step in when the mayor is absent to run a City Council meeting or execute other officials duties.

The position of mayor also has some clout in that it gives its holder a public platform with neighborhood groups and other organizations and some media outlets.

The role of mayor usually is assumed by the mayor pro tem. However, there have been exceptions. In April 2015, newly elected Councilmember Lindsey Horvath was named mayor and newly elected Councilmember Lauren Meister was named mayor pro tem. Duran had been in line for the position of mayor, but several council members, speaking on a not-for-attribution basis, said they were concerned about allegations at the time that Duran had solicited sex from Owens while he was a city employee. Duran denied that accusation although he did admit to meeting Owens on Grindr, the gay sex hookup site, and having sex with him before hiring him as his deputy. The city settled the case with a payout of $500,000 to Owens.

In a second lawsuit, Michelle Rex, the former deputy to Councilmember John D’Amico, claimed she lost her city job when the council deputy system was eliminated, and that the elimination was retribution for her defense of Owens, with whom she had a close working relationship.

Rex lost that suit in a jury trial in May 2017, but testimony during the trial revealed that Duran had made a sexually derogatory comment about Elyse Eisenberg, head of the West Hollywood Heights Neighborhood Association, in an email exchange with Owens.  In testimony before a jury Owens alleged other sexually improper behavior by Duran at City Hall.

Duran also has faced criticism from some local residents for his solicitation of major donations for the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, whose board he chairs, from contractors and developers doing business with the city.

For example, major donors to GMCLA’s annual Voice Awards this year are Athens Services, the city’s trash pickup contractor; the Charles Company, a major real estate developer that got City Council approval for the Melrose Triangle development project; Latham & Watkins, a law firm whose Jim Arnone, a gay Republican lawyer, represents real estate interests doing business with the city; the Arts Club, an exclusive member-only club based in London that is negotiating with the City of West Hollywood to get permits necessary to build a nine-story private club at 8920 Sunset Blvd.; Demitri Samaha, whose family company developed the La Peer Hotel on La Peer Drive; Lawrence Legg and E.T. Legg & Associates, a billboard company that does business with the city; Faring Capital, a major West Hollywood real estate developer involved in the Roberton Lane and French Market projects, among others, and MedMen, a cannabis company that currently operates a medical cannabis dispensary and has a temporary license to sell recreational cannabis in West Hollywood. MedMen is expected to be one of many applicants for medical and recreational cannabis licenses this Spring.

Duran insists that he has not solicited donations from those individuals and companies, but that they have been solicited by staffers at GMCLA, whose board he chairs, and who have little or no political influence in West Hollywood themselves.

Several City Council members, speaking to WEHOville on a not-for-attribution basis, said they share some concerns expressed about naming Duran as the city’s mayor. But, they said, given that he was re-elected in last year’s March election, they felt they had no other option.

The City Council meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. at the Council Chambers, 625 N. San Vicente Blvd., south of Santa Monica. Parking is free in the five-story structure behind the chambers with a ticket validated in the lobby.

  1. So sad for our WEHO, But not surprising at all.
    We keep having those “leaders” “running” our lives and we are all silent.
    As far as being a Mayor?
    Now, he can have more boys and more drugs on his side.
    corruption is huge part of our city, so in this case we got the perfect mayor.
    Shame on us, if we change nothing NOTHING change.

  2. John Duran is the Pendergast Machine meets Boss Tweed wrapped in a very soiled gay flag. He’s certainly carrying on the darker corrupt tradition of West Hollywood formally LA 69. He’s our own Mickey Cohen. All pay to play politics. As for the other elected City Hall political hacks, they are sell outs. They have no guts. They basically are just lapdogs for John Duran and his ilk.

  3. Congratulation’s Mayor Elect, John Duran and Mayor Pro tem Elect, John D’Amico. Both, always top of the leaderboard in West Hollywood’s elections. Both deserve our gratitude for their unwavering commitment to our city, progressive leadership and vision.

  4. John Duran is all about looking good , cute guys thinking he can do something for them, isolating women out , but all the while tolerating AS few of us as possible ! Admit it John! You’ve been known to stand on the sideline when you could and should have been proactive for your female friends. If it were boys, you’d move hell, Earth , and all the dykes that have been with the boys the from the beginning to make you could save the boys.

  5. In 2018, especially after the six months our country has had, this is a TERRIBLE idea.
    Somebody should think about restoring integrity to the WeHo CC instead of embarrassing us.

      1. Facts matter. Large payouts from insurers to settle law suits increases the insured party’s exposure to liability. That equals a proportional increase in premiums. I.e. we are paying.

        1. So know your facts. The policy was one covering most of the cities in LA County, not just WeHo, with premiums shared by all of them. It is possible it has had zero impact on the city’s premiums. The point is invalid. Lots of reasons to criticism Duran, this is not one of them.

          1. I have taken no position on whether Duran should take the honorary position of Mayor. I only have corrected factual errors posters have made regarding the city paying for the settlement, or that they will bear any real extra insurance payment charges. None of the decriers here mention that Duran was reelected by a wide margin by the voters after the settlement. That counts for something as well.

          2. Glenn, no, it is not free, but it also isn’t the same to have the $500K paid out by the City, as it is with the insurance company paying it out. I’m not taking a position on Duran here, either, but facts do matter.

            Chris makes an interesting point about Duran’s re-election. All of this information was out there before the 2017 election. And voters still elected him. Ultimately, I think it is up to voters to keep him off the Council, and out of the position of mayor (they go hand in hand in West Hollywood City government) if they don’t want him there. This shouldn’t be on the shoulders of the other Council members. Duran was re-elected just 13 months ago.

            If people don’t like it, this is a democracy. Maybe the system is flawed, but if you are truly passionate about his removal from office, run for Council, or get active in supporting someone you like better during the 2021 election cycle.

          3. Bet the amount of the premium would be shocking. Not to someone in denial of course. To say “the insurance CO” pays for it shows a lack of common sense. The people pay for it. Not the city, not the insurance CO, not the government.

      2. Yes, facts matter. It is irrelevant that the insurance company paid the settlement. The City pays the insurance company premiums for the policy. Hence, in the long run, the City paid for it.

        What is important is the it shouldn’t have happened. Along with the other things Duran has done – like the City credit card matter, the pouring of vodka down the drain media stunt, so many other things that brought derision to our town.

      3. Ok facts Matter.

        Two Facts I need you to clarify.

        1.The legal costs the city paid around the Owens case.
        2.The Legal costs the city paid around the Rex case.

        Totals please in lawyer fee’s, salary or hours used by city staff on this matter. And any other costs related to the case not the insurance payout

  6. Quite honestly where is miss Me Too Equality fight for Women’s rights Horvath on this one?
    Meister another weak link if she doesn’t abstain.

  7. Several city council members expressed concerns but feel they have no other option.

    Perhaps they could abstain.

    Duran may have evidenced competent qualities while in office but he appears significantly lacking integrity defined as holding oneself to a consistent moral and ethical standard.

    Honesty, truthfulness and the accuracy of one’s actions should be clear according to the values. principles and beliefs they claim to hold. Inconsistency in this respect represents a failing of personal ethics.

    Perhaps John Duran can take the first step of 12 on a path towards integrity by dispensing with ego and the inconsistencies of personal ethics.

    The first step would entail NOT accepting the position of Mayor

  8. So many on city council have been around for decades and get to hire a city manager to hang around for decades?

  9. I’d feel better about this man being named mayor if he returned the $500,000 the city paid to settle the Owens claim.

    1. If our “leaders” had a shred of integrity left, they’d pass a bill requiring city officials to pay for their own sexual harassment settlements. Even the awful people in Congress managed to do that.

      $500,000 could have bought a fleet of sidewalk cleaners.

  10. This will go through — unless residents show up at Monday’s council meeting and voice their objections. It’s still up to us.

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