The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles will hold a meeting for members and staff on Monday night where allegations of sexual misconduct by its executive director, Jonathan Weedman, and its board chairman, West Hollywood Mayor John Duran, are likely to surface along with concerns about the non-profit organization’s financial situation.
Accusations surfaced last year that Weedman, who is 59, had forced a then-20-year-old chorus member to perform oral sex on him in December 2017. This year Duran was accused of inappropriately pushing his fingers into the waistband of the underwear of another young chorus member at a GMCLA performance at the Alex Theatre in Glendale in October.
Both Weedman and Duran have denied the claims. “All I can say about it is I did not do anything wrong and I absolutely deny these allegations,” Weedman told WEHOville. “They are not true.” Duran said he did not know and has never seen his accuser.
The allegation of sexual abuse by Weedman came to WEHOville’s attention when, over several months last year, an anonymous person mailed letters and a postcard accusing GMCLA’s leadership and board of directors of ignoring the alleged incident. WEHOville then reached out to board members to ask about the incident and learned that those it contacted had not heard about it. Someone with knowledge of the situation has told WEHOville that its questioning of board members resulted in pressure on Duran, who was aware of the allegation, to launch an investigation. Duran, however, says an investigation was launched within a week after GMCLA was informed of the alleged incident.
“Our counsel for the board of directors interviewed both parties that same week,” Duran said in a text to WEHOville . “Because the event did not occur at a GMCLA event or office, he concluded that it was not an issue for GMCLA. If it was a crime, it was for police and DA (district attorney) not a non-profit.”
“And he concluded that even if the accuser’s claim was 100% true, it would be two consenting adults in a private home. Not our business.”
Duran said the board decided anyway to hire private investigator Steve Rodig of RCS Investigations and Consulting, a former Anaheim police officer, to look into the allegation. Rodig had been hired by the City of West Hollywood in 2016 to investigate allegations that Duran had sexually harassed his then-deputy, Ian Owens, who he had hired after meeting him on the Grindr gay hookup site and having sex with him. Rodig found “insufficient evidence” to support Owens’s claim that he had been sexually harassed by Duran while on the job.
However, Rodig’s report said “that John Duran did engage in making sexually related comments in the workplace, which were unprofessional and generally violated West Hollywood Administrative Regulations pertaining to harassment. While there may have been no specific intent to do so, Duran’s behavior generally contributed to creating a less than professional working environment at the City of West Hollywood.” The City of West Hollywood paid $500,000 to settle a lawsuit that Owens brought against the city and Duran.
A person involved with GMCLA and with intimate knowledge of the incident, who asked not to be identified for fear of being thrown out of the organization, told WEHOville that Rodig began to interview Weedman and the young man he allegedly abused in June 2018, seven months after the incident is said to have occurred. Rodig is said to have delivered his finding to Duran in July. However Duran said the Rodig report was presented to board counsel Michael Graham and that he didn’t see it until it was presented to the full board.
Duran said the allegations weren’t shared with members of the chorus because they are volunteers or employees. Given that it is a human resources issue, he said GMCLA still can’t share details of the Rodig report.
The incident is alleged to have occurred at Weedman’s house in Pasadena. The young man, in need of a job at the time, was hired by Weedman to come to his home and help him box up materials while Weedman’s husband, Raymundo Baltazar, was on a trip to Mexico. While there, Weedman is said to have forced the young man to perform oral sex on him. However, it also has been said that the Weedman performed oral sex on the young man.
Close friends of the young man said he become deeply depressed over the following month and that after pressing him to discuss what was going on, he told them about the incident. A former member of GMCLA learned about the allegation from those friends and reportedly contacted Duran early last year.
WEHOville has identified the young man, who has said he doesn’t want to make any public statements that could harm GMCLA, an organization that he says he is proud to be a member of, and that he has no intention of suing the organization. He remains a member of GMCLA.
Rodig concluded his investigation by stating that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to support the young man’s allegation of sexual abuse. His report was presented to GMCLA’s board of directors and its executive committee.
Duran’s allegedly inappropriate touching occurred in October of last year when GMCLA was joined by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Mexico City for a performance at the Alex Theatre in Glendale that opened its 40th season. The incident was said to have occurred while members of the chorus were dressing themselves in tuxedos for the performance. Duran has denied the allegation, noting that the alleged incident took place in a room full of 150 people. A half dozen of those near Duran said they did not see the alleged incident take place. Duran said he asked to meet with the young man, who was a part-time GMCLA employee, but that he declined to meet Duran and resigned from GMCLA.
A private investigator also was hired to investigate that alleged incident. In a report to board Vice Chair Steve Holzer and Weedman, the investigator said he could find no one who witnessed the incident to validate the claim.
As to its finances, a review of GMCLA’s IRS tax returns shows that revenue, which had been growing steadily over the past five years, in 2017 fell 21% to $1.36 million. It was in January of that year that GMCLA hired Weedman, former senior vice president of the Wells Fargo Foundation, for the executive director’s job. GMCLA also saw a 7.5% reduction in expenses in 2017. But with the decline in revenue, that still left the organization with a loss of $227,000. GMCLA’s IRS 2018 tax return is not yet available.
Duran’s leadership of GMCLA has helped it attract donations from companies that do business or seek to do business with the City of West Hollywood. Among the large donors have been Athens Services, the trash pickup company; Wells Fargo, the city’s bank; and Combined Properties, the real estate developer. In recent months, while a city-appointed independent group evaluated applications for cannabis retail licenses, several cannabis retailers also began contributing to GMCLA.
The GMCLA meeting on Monday night is at First Congregational Church at 540 S. Commonwealth Ave. in Los Angeles and is open only to its members, directors and officers. GMCLA was founded in July 1979 at West Hollywood’s Plummer Park Community Center by a group of 99 gay men from across Los Angeles County. It still is based in West Hollywood, with its current headquarters in the Hustler building on Sunset Boulevard.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to include additional information from John Duran about GMCLA’s handling of the alleged incidents.