John Duran to Step Down as Chair of Gay Men’s Chorus of LA

John Duran is stepping down as chair of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles after multiple allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct.

John Duran
John Duran

The decision by Duran was first reported by the Los Angeles Times.  Duran, who is the mayor of West Hollywood, has said he will leave GMCLA this summer, the end of its 40th season. He has served 20 years with GMCLA, which puts on concerts and also has programs that support students in schools and juvenile detention centers across Los Angeles.

Duran was accused this year of putting his fingers down the waistband of the underwear of chorus member Jason Tong while they were changing clothes during a GMCLA performance in Glendale. Tong’s complaint about the incident led to GMCLA hiring a private investigator to look into it.  The investigator reported that he couldn’t find evidence to support the allegation by Tong, who quit the organization.  Duran denied that the incident took place.

GMCLA also has investigated allegations by another young man, reported by WEHOville last week, that Jonathan Weedman, the chorus’ executive director, forced him to have oral sex.  Weedman has denied that allegation and a private investigator said he couldn’t find evidence to support that.

WEHOville has obtained copies of online messages between members of GMCLA including allegations of sexual misconduct from another chorus member that led to his quitting the chorus.  The messages include discussions about how to force Duran and Weedman to leave the chorus.

GMCLA held a meeting on Jan. 28 at which these issues were discussed.  But some of those who attended the meeting criticized Duran and Weedman’s handling of it.

“Executive leadership, you had but one job, to be gut wrenchingly honest and transparent with the stakeholders of this chorus sitting in a circle in those chairs Monday night,” said a message from member Scott Daves.  “You failed. Instead you went into CYA mode and closed ranks around the good ol’ boys network, and in doing so, have lost the faith and trust of myself and apparently, a sh-t ton load of members.”

“It is now too late, those named by WEHOville MUST resign if we hope to start to heal and move forward. You TWO are too big of a liability both by association as well as the potential financial liability.  Consider yourselves impeached, follow Nixon’s lead, don’t force a vote.”

Duran has faced other allegations of sexual misconduct.  The City of West Hollywood in 2016 paid $500,000 to Ian Owens, Duran’s former City Hall deputy, to settle a lawsuit in which Owens claimed he was sexually harassed by Duran.  Both Duran and the city denied those allegations.  A private investigator hired by the city found no evidence to support the allegations but did report that Duran was known for making sexually inappropriate comments to city employees.

Duran is one of three gay members of the City Council and is known for being open about his sexual behavior. He has an account on Grindr, the sex hookup app for gay men, and is well known for his interactions there. During a trial over charges by former Council deputy Michelle Rex that she lost her job because of a decision inspired by the Ian Owens incident, Duran was questioned my Rex’s lawyer about allegations about his conduct.  Duran defended his openness about his sex life, saying that West Hollywood’s history was one of sexual liberty, whether on the Sunset Strip or Boystown, the gay nightlife district. “Sexual discussions that happen in West Hollywood you’re not going to see in West Covina, but it’s pretty common in West Hollywood,” he said.   In a recent broadcast of a radio show that he hosts, Duran said of a proposal for a program to help sex workers: ““This would be really good for West Hollywood because we are a sex-based city.”

The City Council last night voted to effectively extend Duran’s 12-month term as mayor of West Hollywood for four months, meaning it will expire in September 2019. The vote came as part of a decision to realign various city appointments and terms as West Hollywood moves its city elections in 2020 to the state general election date.

Another issue GMCLA faces is financial. A review of its federal 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.

Under Duran’s leadership, GMCLA has attracted donations from companies that do business or seek to do business with the City of West Hollywood, leaving some to wonder whether that would affect Duran’s votes on issues involving those companies. Duran has said that his decisions on city matters are not influenced by whether or not a company donates to his favorite charitable organization.   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.

  1. Duran says this is a “sex-based city” because he wants it to be a sex-based city.
    He also wants X-rated entertainment tents for the WeHo’s Halloween Carnival.
    We get the picture, we know what you want, but it doesn’t excuse sexual harassment and it’s a horrible look for city council.

    1. Perhaps he could attend therapy with Harvey Weinstein and Les Moonves and the hoards of other creepy folks….they’re really all the same. Please Wehoville stop publishing photos and just put a name tag “in place of”…..Duran and Buck.

      My eyes hurt!

  2. I agree with Steve Martin,Alan Strasburg and kab1200 on their takes about John Duran. Continuing as a councilman, with the many points of allegations, representing one of the most progressive cities in California does not help his cause and is bringing ridicule upon himself.He needs to seek help for his problems and not subject the city to any more craziness. Even stepping down temporary should bring relief.

    On another point,just because someone is gay does not automatically mean that person is a sex addict.That Mr. Duran is pushing this belief is bizarre. I laughed when I read in the comments that Mr. Duran proclaimed West Hollywood a “sex- based city”. Wow, he is definitely out of touch and out of wack.Let’s hope he leaves GMCLA immediately!!

    1. I agree with you with and I am in no way defending Mr. Duran, but we do have at least 8 sex shops and at least two totally naked (women) dance bars. Many bars were guys dance in very skimpy underwear, Plus we have a Adult theater with one big room and several smaller rooms where people engage in public sex. Yes, I have been there and to see what goes on there. I would never make a comment based on hearsay. I don’t have a problem with all those businesses, but to pretend we are Puritans is quite absurd. The problem is not sex, That is a natural instinct, but there is a time and place for it. The problem is we have an City Official who cannot separate his private live from his professional life and a town who keeps re-electing him.

      1. 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣
        The problem is not sex.
        The problem is lack of good judgement, and an ethical sense of behavior. …learly analagous to the author and John Duran.

  3. Lurch the lech strikes again.

    This guy is a never ending scandal and an endless embarrassment. Does this community have any standards at all ???

    One word: RECALL !!!!!

    1. It is time the all the candidates running for West Hollywood City Council demand that John Durand resign immediately.

      Besides the LA Times, the Advocate and LA Magizine covered this. West Hollywood is beginning to look like the sleeze capital. Great image for the “Creative City!” It’s becoming embarrassing to say I live here after the Ed Buck racism deaths, the Stormy Daniels key to the City and now the mayor making a mockery of #metoo.

  4. Duran’s problems such as the Weho Deputy and this GMCLA problem are probably the tip of an iceberg, as reports have been circulating about him for years.

    It’s astonishing that Duran could state about a program to help sex workers: ““This would be really good for West Hollywood because we are a sex-based city.” Really?This suggests a profound blindness to today’s standards, mores, protections for the LGBT community and the deeper, broader relationships that those protections afford.

    As a Councilman of this particular city and California Attorney, one would expect him to be very sensitive about these matters. Where is his display of leadership in this area?

    It is incredulous and presumptuous that, after being re-elected, Duran stated that West Hollywood had “forgiven him”. Really? For incurring a $500,000.00 legal expense and creating a huge disruption in the governing process and the city bureaucracy.

    Perhaps it’s time for a Weho-version of #MeToo that might throw some light on the matter. Duran’s orations at City Council are certainly not of a man who is self-reflective.

  5. It’s time to oust the incumbents up for reelection on the West Hollywood City Council. Meister, Horvath, and D’Amico are complacent in issues that have long plagues John Duran’s tenure as mayor or council member. If we want to see real change in our city, we need newly elected leaders who not allow these kinds of scandals to continue to plague the city of West Hollywood. That’s why Brendan Hood, Marquita Thomas, and Sepi Shyne will have my vote. It’s also about time the city of West Hollywood had some diversity on their city council which includes women of color. Our communities of color are dying and we need council members who reflect the members of the community and come from diverse backgrounds.

  6. I may be wrong, but didn’t Wehoville which originally brought this news to light, also say that the executive director was under investigation? If that is correct why is that not mentioned in the LA Times article? He comes off looking like the hero here but may be just as complicit as John Duran.

  7. THE CITY Of WEST HOLLYWOOD is FINALLY realizing that Duran is a big liability and it is willing to keep an eye covered for another few months. HE ONLY GOT re- ELECTED because most people that vote in WEHO are older people that only lookout for their on interest commercially and their own agendas and because gay young people don’t vote! IT IS WELL KNOWN THAT DURAN, among the gay nightlife circle and gay online apps, had been abusing his position under the umbrella of power (protection of business names) and by his homosexual way of being (his gay peers that allowed him to behave the way he wanted). I’m sure he will be doing what’s he’s known for doing until someone force him to keep his hands put. —I experienced his dirty ways of being one night while attending an event for the gay chorus. While this could be considered here’s say…. Anyone, for the mere fact of uncovering the truth, should not be pointing fingers so fast. But, I bet anyone would be willing the bring out other dirty cases of abuse once they realized it’s been an ongoing case…..

  8. Wow. So he is troubling enough to have to step down as head of the Gay Men’s Chorus, but he is okay to remain the mayor of the entire city of West Hollywood?

    As someone from outside your town, gotta say — your City Council’s seriously messed up.

  9. As a former and hopefully soon-reinstated West Hollywood citizen, I’d be livid and embarrassed to have the state- and nationwide perception of our city reduced to being basically an inhabitable brothel.

    No, John. There’s much more to the history, community, and deeply held values of West Hollywood than grabbing headlines, reenacting Oscar-winning films with the chorus, and waving off sexually aggressive or inappropriate behavior, especially in the workplace.

    Perhaps “the honorable mayor” Duran should try figuring out what honorable behavior looks like before brazenly slapping that title in front of his name. And lord knows others involved in WeHo’s governance might join him in the study.

  10. After the sex scandal that cost the city $500,000 and him $0, only 27% of Weho voters voted in the 2017 city council election. And he won. John Duran is the politician we deserve.

  11. They EXTENDED his term as Mayor? After all the controversies he has caused our City in the past? Now this new accusation of sexual misdeeds in the Chorus? John Duran has no business even being Mayor in the first place, let alone having his term extended. He should have been voted out after the investigation over mealgate. Then again after the sexual harassment mess he caused in City Hall. Now he has caused another one in the Gay Men’s Chorus and our dumb City Council has blindly extended his term as Mayor. What has happened to our City? I am dumbfounded. I just wish he was on the ballot this time and that we had more qualified candidates to confront the other members of the Council. This will be an interesting election.

  12. Playing the “gay card” to cover his inappropriate behavior not only allows John Duran to avoid taking personal responsibility but he basically tells the outside world that his behavior is simply the norm for all gay men.

    For those of us lucky enough to experience aging in the post AIDS era, it is a struggle on how you define yourself after spending years defining yourself by your sexuality and your looks. Defining yourself largely on your sexuality is a losing battle but one many of us engage in. Aging is a tough transition for which we have few attractive role models; few of us know how to do it gracefully. Often we try to cope by engaging self destructive behaviors such as drug or alcohol abuse, hyper-sexuality or predatory behavior. Duran surrounds himself with enablers to buffer any criticism of his self destructive behaviors and reinforce his sense of entitlement. Neither he nor the community he purports to lead benefit by the lack of consequences of his inappropriate behavior. Duran has clouded his early years of leadership with this tawdry and mindless behavior.

    West Hollywood deserves better. But in some ways so does John Duran. Maybe he needs to ask himself why he is so motivated or feel so entitled to hold positions of responsibility and yet not be restrained by accepted limits on personal conduct. Maybe he could better deal with his personal issues if he did not put himself in the glare of the public spot light. With unfortunate regularity we cringe when we pick up the Los Angeles Times and we will continue to do so as long as he is in office. How can these articles not be hurtful to Duran and his family? Having known John Duran for over thirty years it is painful to see him write his own obituary as the man who was a role model, serving the community during a time of crisis, but wound up being sad parody and an embarrassment to the community that once held him in high esteem.

  13. I do not condone sexual harassment in any way. At the same time, I think there is some age-shaming against Duran about his openness regarding his sexuality. When not on city time (and I know he’s been accused of doing it on city time), he should be free to be on Grindr, or whatever hook-up app he wants. If I was in public office, I personally wouldn’t, as I wouldn’t like how it looks to some people. But the reality is, much of gay culture is very “sexual,” and a lot of older men are into younger men. Once again, I don’t condone harassment in any way, nor did I think it was appropriate for him to hire someone he hooked up with on Grindr, and not notify HR. My point is, there is some conservatism going on here, as well as slut-shaming and age-shaming, in addition to allegations of sexual harassment. On that note, even if he didn’t harass Ian Owens, it was extremely inappropriate for him not to report their prior sexual relationship to HR and he showed nothing but arrogance after the entire affair, acting like he was the victim, even if that is all he did. He, at the very least, put the city into a vulnerable position by not reporting this.

    I am baffled that they extended his mayoral term into September, even with the change in election cycle. Everyone on that Council knows how controversial he is, how bad his name has been for the city, about his grandstanding, and other things. Why didn’t they elect to put D’Amico (next in line) into the mayor position in April, and let him have a 16-month term, instead? I seriously can’t believe they made that decision. I can only think that he has strong influence over them, or they are just blind to the level of public disdain for him. Just like his stepping down at GMCLA, his moving out of the mayor position ASAP would have been better for the city.

    1. OK, I just read the LA Times article, and I know one of the people reporting harassment. I’m even more aghast. And I completely believe the accuser. I maintain that there is slut and age shaming in the gay community, but that aside, and still do not condone sexual harassment in any way. I wonder: Did the City Council know about this decision before their deliberation last night? When did Duran step down, and did they know about that? This is just another scandal. If they knew this was brewing, or that he had stepped down, or about the LA Times article, and multiple accusers, then shame on them, for extending his term as mayor.

    2. Uh, he was doing Grindr while at city council meetings. D’Amico had to ask him to stop doing that. He def is a sex addict, and to say it’s because he is gay, is just absurd.

  14. I believe this all starts with Duran’s breathtaking proclamation that West Hollywood is a “sex-based city.” Baldercocky! That statement is simply the abuse of his station to proclaim a justification for his own sexual behavior, including much that would not be tolerated in any other environment. By reducing gay identity to nothing more than sexual behavior, Duran dismisses decades of civil rights work on the shoulders of true giants, including legions of lesbians. I’m all for sex-positive messaging, but let’s not create the illusion for the rest of the world that there’s nothing more to our sense of community, our sense of identity, and this charming urban village we all inhabit.

    Further, it is entirely shameful on the part of the City Council to extend the term of this mayor whom they couldn’t muster the profile in courage to even elect to that ceremonial role. They sat on their hands, rather than take a stand, and now they brush all else under the rug for the convenience of aligning terms and appointments with the new election cycle.

    Every candidate for City Council needs to be asked some tough and pointed questions on what they will tolerate going forward, and what they envision as West Hollywood’s brand. It is more than sex.

    The stain of John Duran’s self-serving grandstanding on sex needs to be laundered. He does not speak for an entire community.

    1. Yes, and it’s by no means “puritanical” or “slut-shaming” to reiterate the wisdom so pithily expressed by Olympia Dukakis in “Moonstruck”: “Don’t s**t where you eat.”

  15. John Duran is a disgrace to the city council of west hollywood. Shame on Lindsey Horvath who only fights for woman’s rights and employs a double standard on sexual harassment turning a blind eye to men and her own city and our city council’s behavior. Shame on D’Amico for endorsing an extension in Duran’s mayors term and condoning such behavior. Shame on John Heilman for years of turning a blind eye on Duran’s inequities. Extending this pariahs term as mayor should make every local leader sick to their stomach and every resident cringe. But we have weak leaders who are more interested in their own self interests rather than looking out for our cities best interest and reputation.

  16. This is no surprise. John Duran believes that being a gay man in West Hollywood gives his immunity to sexually assault other gay men.

    How the City Council could extend his term as Mayor in light of these allegations is an absolute disgrace! He needs to be removed from office!

    While Duran is not on the municipal ballot next month, Council Members Horvath, Meister and D’Amico are. Their support of John Duran makes it impossible for me to support them for
    re-election, as anyone who supports this man with the knowledge that he regularly engages in this behavior, is as reprehensible as Duran’s behavior.

    1. Be very clear, Meister DOES not condone Duran’s behavior. Conversely, she normally sits in opposition to all things John(s) and should not be looked at as someone who gives Duran a pass! We may like some of the current council members, but Meister is putting forth changes that make smart changes or halts the over building that the 3 johns love so much. She deserves to continue her leadership of this city.

  17. It is time for John Duran to resign as a WEHO council member and mayor of West Hollywood.

    He is a liability. Too much political negative baggage.

    He should have resigned after the Grindr affair. Any other politician would.

    West Hollywood has done nothing except to enable him from the sexual harrasment lawsuit to the earlier investigation by the LA District Attorney over meals charged to the city. Plus, the self serving Stormy Daniels grand standing.

    And now being asked to leave the Gay Men’s Choir over sexual harassment charges. How many more are there lurking in the wings?

    Resign now with some dignity.

    And West Hollywood will have the possibility of four new council members in the coming election.

    1. I think there is a difference between supporting Duran and “working together with” Duran.
      Certainly, his council colleagues want to accomplish a few things while serving our citizens. Needing to horsetrade with a colleague isn’t the same thing as giving them the stamp of approval.
      Indeed, Duran is known to have a very long memory for those who cross him. Until he steps aside, I’d prefer Council not be paralyzed.

  18. I woke up this morning and one of the first stories I read was the LA Times article covering Duran and his misdeeds.I am glad he is stepping down as the GMCLA does not need any more of this nonsense.

    The executive board of GMCLA needs to buckle down and be honest with itself. A good first step is the call for sexual harassment training. Another would be the strict following of protocol whenever a allegation of sexual misconduct is bought forward.If they don’t get control of this situation,people will start having doubts and stop contributing to the chorus.Potential singers will certainly not want to join the organization which has done great good in the past.

    As for Duran,he needs to look onto himself and decide if he needs to change.Having your name attached to sexual misconduct allegations or whatever isn’t going to help one’s reputation.

Comments are closed.