Opinion: The WeHo City Council’s Silence About Mayor Duran Is Deafening

The Kansas City Star. The Sacramento Bee. The Tacoma (Wash.) News Tribune. The Raleigh (N.C.) News & Observer. The Idaho Statesman. The Bradenton (Fla.) Herald. The list goes on and on.

Allegations that West Hollywood Mayor John Duran engaged in sexually inappropriate behavior with young members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, whose board he chairs, were first published by WEHOville on Jan. 27. Now, after a story on Feb. 5 in the Los Angeles Times that named three of the accusers, the story has gone nationwide. Every publication also has included a mention of a previous allegation that Duran sexually harassed his former City Hall deputy, Ian Owens, which resulted in a lawsuit that the City of West Hollywood settled in 2016 with a $500,000 payout to Owens. (Duran has denied all allegations and has announced that he will step down as chair of GMCLA this summer.) WEHOville also has learned of another complaint filed at City Hall alleging sexually inappropriate comments by Duran at a city event, a complaint that the city has not acknowledged receiving.

Mayor John Duran
Mayor John Duran

So what has been the reaction of the West Hollywood City Council to these allegations that have tarnished this progressive city’s image nationwide, that homophobes will use to support their baseless accusations that gay men are sexual predators, and that now are a part of Duran’s Wikipedia profile? Silence. Until Wednesday night that is, when three City Council members up for re-election on March 5 and their challengers were quizzed about the issue by this writer, who moderated a candidates forum hosted by the Eastside Neighborhood Watch Group at the Gateway shopping center.

The question? Given the controversy, would candidates in the upcoming election ask Duran to step down as mayor of West Hollywood if they were on the City Council?  The acceptable answers were “yes” or “no.” But the incumbent candidates and three of the five challengers present avoided either of those answers.

Explaining her reluctance, Lindsey Horvath said that City Hall had received only one telephone call and three emails from residents demanding that Duran resign. City Hall got more calls about the use of scooters on city sidewalks she said. Horvath apparently didn’t notice that more than 50 residents have posted comments on WEHOville or on its Facebook page saying that Duran should step down as mayor or step off the City Council because of the allegations. It’s also worth noting that WEHOville’s two stories about Duran and his alleged misbehavior have attracted more than 10,400 readers (although that’s admittedly only a fraction of the nearly 100,000 readers who have consumed stories on WEHOville about Ed Buck since Jan. 1.)

Horvath also argued that the City of West Hollywood isn’t legally liable for what Duran does at the Gay Men’s Chorus, and the city doesn’t currently have a financial relationship with GMCLA. She noted that the City Attorney said the Council can’t remove Duran from his position as a Council member (which wasn’t the question.) And she pointed out that the residents of West Hollywood re-elected Duran to the City Council in 2017, despite the allegations raised in what became known as “Deputygate.” (But then Donald Trump was elected president of the United States in 2016, which hasn’t stopped the City Council from criticizing his behavior.)

Horvath suggested that Duran consider “taking a pause” from his role as mayor, which also was Councilmember John D’Amico’s suggestion. When pressed, they acknowledged that “take a pause” meant voluntarily giving up the role, if only temporarily. Neither Horvath or D’Amico said they would ask Duran to step down.

Councilmember Lauren Meister’s response? “I’m not a judge and I’m not a jury, but if it was me I would feel that that would be a terrible distraction from my responsibility as mayor of the city. The people voted him in …. The people who voted him in have options.” Again, neither a “yes” or “no.”

Two of the challengers – Duke Mason and Sepi Shyne – also said Duran should “take a pause,” with Mason saying Duran’s future was up to the voters in the 2020 election. Marquita Thomas said “here’s too much controversy in the city right now and this is adding to it.” But she wouldn’t say what she would ask Duran to do if elected.

Tom Demille said Duran should resign from the Council. Brendan Hood, another challenger, noted that “everyone is innocent until proven guilty. But enough is enough. He should resign.”

We understand that there’s an election on March 5, and those in the running likely want the support of Duran and his cadre of regular voters. But for those members of the City Council who have been active supporters of the #MeToo movement (on whose agenda this Saturday will be the question of John Duran), and for those in the running who want to protect the reputationof a city soiled by the suspicious deaths of two black men at Ed Buck’s apartment as well as Deputygate, it’s time to act and not obfuscate.


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Francine Blum
Guest
Francine Blum

Seems there is a move in the WEHO community, mainly some board members of the Chamber of Commerce, to force Duran to resign according to a friend who runs a hotel here. Hotels, established and new ones like Marriott, are uncomfortable with Duran branding the “Sex-Based-City” to West Hollywood. The US and UK coverage of Duran & the gay choir plus the racist Ed Buck issues as pointed out in this article are a major concern. They are all asking what could be next? They’re also approaching politicians and Democrat players involved in getting the gay guy who was head… Read more »

Listen Wehoan’s
Guest
Listen Wehoan’s

Is it fair to say that both D’Amico and Horvath condone this behavior by accepting Duran’s endorsement? They vote to extend his mayors term. The whole thing is disgusting wipe them all out of office.

ham
Guest
ham

I write Los Angeles instead of West Hollywood. The city has become too embarrassing.

Eric Jon Schmidt
Guest
Eric Jon Schmidt

If you want to get another good source of opinions , spend a day riding all of our City Lines and talk to the other riders. Many of them are “old-timers” who have been here upwards of 40 years and they all have experienced-based opinions.

Brad
Guest
Brad

Im very upset at the deafening sound of Duran as our mayor. Horvath should be the first one to break with Duran and do the right thing. D’Amico should have his kumbaya moment too. Heilman seems to have no moral backbone except when it suits himself. Meister is the only one who will stand on principle. Duran’s behavior is worse that Northam in Virginia or Al Franken in Minnesota. He is a disgrace to this city.

Tom Smart
Guest
Tom Smart

He is a pathetic embarrassment to the city and to himself. He should resign stat.

Rudolf Martin
Guest
Rudolf Martin

Of course he should resign. But if he had the required sense of ethics in the first place then he wouldn’t have done half the things that he should resign for. We did get the representation we deserve.

Gage Anthony
Guest
Gage Anthony

I’m sorry but isn’t the saying, “the pot calling the kettle black” appropriate for this publication? I came across the writer’s story because I am a resident of WEHO and it sparked my curiosity. Then I was interested with what people had to say about the Tela Novella drama playing out in the halls of City Council. To my amusement your readers are presented with the very thing you were accusing (allegedly) a Government official of at the bottom of the page. You selected advertising from something promoting “Cougar Comedy Nights” and an almost all nude flyer for a “HUMP… Read more »

Alan Strasburg
Guest
Alan Strasburg

Not even close to analagous. The advertisements are for legitimate artistic expressions involving consenting adults. Artistic expression, even that which we personally might find objectionable for whatever personal reasons, doesn’t even come close to inappopriate and unwelcomed behavior and/or employer/employee harrassment. Attempts at conflation amount to a heaping dose of deflection.

Wesley McDowell
Guest
Wesley McDowell

Okay so it’s not exactly on the point of this discussion, but does anyone know why Yogurt Stop has had a flavor need four John Duran since they opened?

Larry Block
Guest
Larry Block

Sadly there comes a time when a public servant no longer commands the respect of too many constituents and whose reputation begins to overwhelm the reputation of the city. It feels like that time is here.

Ty Geltmaker, Ph.D. (Historian)
Guest
Ty Geltmaker, Ph.D. (Historian)

The cowardice of Horvath, Meister, D’Amico in refusing to demand Duran’s resignation from the Council is reason for me to inform them (as I had already done to D’Amico) that I will not vote for any of these three enabler/sycophants. Let Duran resign with three new Council members (Marquita & Sepi & whomever else you prefer) make life difficult also for the fetid Heilman.

Chloe Ross
Guest

John Duran is very open about his wants and ways on some social apps. He believes that this is the kind of thing “gay men do”. I must add, straight men too. Should he resign? Probably. His roamin’ hands and rushin’ fingers seem to be getting old and tired since we have entered an age where the “horseplay” Mr. Duran favors, in the locker or choir stalls or the office is just not what it used to be. So does it serve the city well to have this throwback to the frat houses of shame in office? I suspect a… Read more »

Rick Tully
Guest
Rick Tully

What a sad epilogue to a dated gay lifestyle as if someone was waving at a parade that ended decades ago.

Meister, D’Amico and Horvath are a NO vote. They’re John Duran’s pathetic enablers. We need new faces.

West Hollywood isn’t some smalltown. All of this media attention is making this city look like a creepy joke!

Peter Pan Town
Guest
Peter Pan Town

This city has been a creepy joke for a long, long time. Someone once said West Hollywood is like “Peter Pan Town where no one ever grows up and simply has illusions about themselves”.