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 reputation of 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.


45 Comments
  1. 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 of the California Dems to resign over sexual harassment issues last Nov. They want them to take a position. This includes city council members. It seems two of the candidates are very concerned because many voters they thought that they were supporting them aren’t going to.

    None of this was in confidence and I’m sure he told others. So it is no surprise one of us would be sharing this and perhaps more in comments. He’s gay, married, in his 30s and one of best friends is the gay men’s choir. So all of this close to home.

    Sadly for our city, I think this is just going to get worse, day by day, until there’s no repair and just ugly media attention. With the council members up for re-election doing and saying nothing.

    There are so many great things about West Hollywood but the endless focus mainly is about John Duran and Ed Buck.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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 Film Festival.” Really, WEHOville?

    If your going to have a story published around sexual misconduct and point the finger at others, be mindful of what advertising gets placed on your story page. That’s all I’m suggesting.

    1. 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.

  7. 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?

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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 smart chap would resign. But then he is a criminal lawyer and his specialty is tweaking the facts to the point of exoneration. I guess this boy will just be a boy as he plays cowboys and baritones.

    1. 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!

      1. 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”.

  11. I looked at Mr. Duran’s profile on a lawyer website and see he does not have any complaints against him,profession wise.If he was smart,he will keep his professional conduct above reproach. His personal conduct seems to be slipping,so he needs to thread lightly to keep the money coming in.

    The list of organizations he was associated with is very impressive and this has helped him stay on top of the heap for many years.It is too bad this past conduct is coming to light.Again, I think he should resign from GMCLA immediately. I am proud and lucky to see them on the annual county holiday show and I hope the current brouhaha does not jeopardize their chances for appearing at this event in the future.

    For whatever reason,the city council does not want to take action on Mr. Duran.They won’t even request that he steps down temporarily.If this is the case,the only thing left to do is contain him.No special assignments or proclamations,no assignments to any city committee and no friendly talk with him unless city business to being discussed. Maybe if he sees he isn’t effective as city councilman,he will leave the council quietly. I don’t think he will do this voluntarily,but you never know.

  12. West Hollywood voters went to the poll in the last election with full public knowledge of the Owens scandal and voted Duran into office again- and Heilman and Duran essentially ran together, so I’m curious where the ire was then or is now for John Heilman for consistently enabling John Duran? Why isn’t Heilman calling for him to resign?

    Heilman seems to skip away squeaky clean from blame, where as Horvath, Meister and D’Amico (who are coincedentially all up for re-election in less than a month) are expected to do what exactly? Council members are elected by the people, if the people don’t want Duran to serve due to this latest sexual harrassment issue, why are they not flooding City Hall with calls and protests? We are certainly not a city that shies away from political activism, where is this outrage that’s being reported on?

  13. I’m afraid Duran is too self absorbed to see reality. His body language in public tells the story of a pompous, egotistical & condescending man who expects others to bow & scrape in his presence. If he had any pride in West Hollywood, he would try to engage in more respectable behavior. Afraid he has already diminished West Hollywood’s image & he simply doesn’t care. He is a BMOC & he’s stick his hand down the underwear of any man he chooses, image be damned

  14. Here we are again in controversy! It’s time for West Hollywood to take back your city. Yes, it is true that one is innocent until proven guilty. However, in the #metoo movement, these men of power really need to step down and face the music. I have no problem if elected asking Mr. Duran to resign. Again, we are victim shaming and not coming to the aid of those who need us now more than ever. As a gay man from Generation X, these are the same men we were groped by, cat called, given drugs, even offered money on many occasions as we were coming of age. But they said it was normal and no one would believe us anyway. And now, because of the irresponsible behavior of the generation before me, there are a lot less gay men from my generation. They all died! They told us it was normal and men are just sexual beings. Bullshit, they were and are predators! Until these men are called out, our community will not grow. It is time for the residents of West Hollywood to step up and vote for change. The Hells Angels have done a lot of charity for children, but that doesn’t make up for all the death and destruction they have caused. Mr. Duran shows a record of sexual misconduct, both on and off the clock and needs to be held accountable. There are a number of gay men in loving and monogamous relationships, including myself. That is what West Hollywood should be representing across the country.
    The success of marriage for all! After all, we fought very hard for it to all be washed away because we as a community, can’t keep our house clean. We have a lot of spring cleaning to do. As we are seeing, these predators are getting away with murder, still. Please, I beg you, make some changes in West Hollywood. Don’t be afraid of change, you can’t be worse off. Unfortunately due to travel delays I was unable to participate in the Forum last night.

  15. As I stated in a previous post, it’s time to vote out all of the current city council incumbents that are up for reelection. There are far too many scandals circling John Duran and the council members’ silence on the issue is suspect. Duran may have done good things for the city at different points in time, but that doesn’t mean he is still good for the city. You can be a champion of civil rights and still act inappropriately in private.

    It’s time to vote new members on our city council and add some much needed diversity. That’s why I’ll be voting for Marquita Thomas, Sepi Shyne, and Brendan Hood on March 5th.

  16. Change his last name to Trump or Kavanaugh and the council would be marching in the streets…passing resolutions…boycotting…resisting….but when a liberal is accused….crickets. Where is the outrage???!! Where are the calls for him to step down??!! Not a word.

  17. Horvath lost my vote – she is just a puppet. She advocates for men preying on women but not men preying on younger men.

    1. Horvath is owned by developers. Like Townscape.

      Horvath wants John Duran onboard because he along with John Heilman introduced her to developers. Same thing that Duran and Heilman did for John D’Amico. She is sending thousands of dollars worth of mailers out that look more like an advert for a TV series about a millennial politician than a working council person.

      Vote Horvath out and John D’Amico.

    2. Lindsey Horvath is not a puppet. Lindsey has clarity and scope far beyond her years and is keenly aware of protocol and procedures. These procedures are not emotionally driven but unfortunately do take time to play out. There is no question in my mind that she gives any quarter to this behavior in any way and was most insistent to the extent of her authority to call for a full and fair investigation into the Buck matter.

      1. Buck did not donate to Horvath so he did not support her so she stood up to him. But she does not stand up to anybody else. She has been silent on all Duran matters but she has a pretty big mouth when it comes to Trump.

  18. Hank,

    I was in the audience, and you didn’t acknowledge the Brown Act as part of the incumbents’ answers (audience members did). The position of mayor is one voted on by the Council, and by tradition, they rotate evenly. But they still vote on it, typically, in April. I’m not sure how the Brown Act affected their ability to respond, but I believe it might relate to who they would elect mayor (which he’s not up for again), or any policy they might be voting on (such as 5.C., from the Monday night meeting this week).

    When Duran was immersed in the initial Ian Owens scandal, I believe it was his turn to be up for Mayor, in rotation (or, perhaps, in 2016). He stepped aside, and let one of the new Council members take that position (Horvath I believe, in 2015). Then Meister. Then Heilman. He went 7 years out of the mayor position, I believe, partially because of that scandal, in the middle of that timeframe.

    Sitting Council members were correct that they can’t ask him to step down from the Council, or even mayor. They must vote for a new mayor, and that has been delayed until September. If a recall is in order, or a lack of re-election, it is up to the voters.

    Regarding 5.C., I believe D’Amico said he did not know Duran had stepped down when they passed that on Monday night (GMCLA meeting was the same night). They voted to extend Duran’s mayoral term until September, then let the next mayor serve for 16 months, then reset to a cycle starting in Jan, 2021, back to 12-month terms. This is all because of a change in our election cycle.

    So, a question for the forum on Feb 20th (which I believe you are moderating, and feel free to re-word this): If elected (or re-elected), will you propose, and look for another amendment from the passage of 5.C., from the Feb 4th meeting, one that has Duran step down in April, 2019, and elect a new mayor, and come up with a new schedule, which will still allow the Council to reset everything for a new mayor in January, 2021? I realize that that is only covers 20 months, which might involve two mayors serving partial terms (perhaps 10 months each), and will affect board and commission appointments. Duran might be innocent until proven guilty, but the scandals he’s been immersed in, and the negative national media coverage makes our city look bad, especially considering that those who live outside our city don’t understand that the position of mayor is ceremonial, but it is still the public face of our city, nation-wide, and it can only be good for our city to move on from Duran in this position, ASAP.

    They might not be able to answer that complex question, due to the Brown Act. I’m not sure.

    Monday night’s discussion was at 1 hour, 9 minutes, starting here:

    https://youtu.be/Sgfe-T3zfbo?t=4140

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Hollywood,_California#Mayors_of_West_Hollywood

  19. The allegations, from homophobes or otherwise, that gay men are sexual predators aren’t baseless in this instance, though.
    Ahem…allegedly.

    1. Some gays are predators. Some straight men (and women) are predators. Why lump a whole group for the actions of a portion?

  20. So John Duran had consensual sex with one person and now others are saying he engaged in “sexually inappropriate” behavior with 3 people in the gay men’s chorus. I feel some serious attempts, during the political season, to wipe away Mr. Duran’s accomplishments to this community–standing up for gay marriage, medical marijuana, and civil rights in general. He’s our John F.ing Duran, he’s not perfect, but he cares about people

    People who audition for the Gay Men’s Chorus are auditioning for a singing group, not trying to bring about change to the world. I say gay marriage is positive. Affordable housing is Positive. Medical Marijuana is positive. Ending Aids is positive–all things John Duran cares about.

    When Matt Damon audition to be in the NYC Gay Men’s Chorus in Season 4 of Will and Grace he came up against Jack in the finals and almost missed his chance. Running in at the last minute of the final auditions to sing “Let’s Here it for the Boy’s” Jack shouted: “Excuse me, Dont you remember what Aretha said to Gloria Maria Shanya during Divas Life?–Are you tripping? No one interrupts the Queen of Soul–Okay?” Damon as Owen replied: “And I also believe she said: “Hey Cuba Crazy cowgirl get out of my light and stop stealing my snacks bitch.” Damon won but would eventually admit he only wanted to be in the chorus to travel to Europe free.

    So, who knows the motivations of those Chorus guys who claim inappropriate touchings. But I do know this– John Duran is a civil rights champion and he has more to his credit than go-go boys day and a campaign manager that brought us a City that is fur-free and sadly with two less african american people on this earth who used Crystal Meth.

    So let’s all check the facts here and figure out what’s important. Are you trippin’?

    1. I happen to know one of those “chorus guys,” and I fully believe him, and what is even more disheartening is that he spoke out about it, and they did *nothing.” He left the chorus, as a result. So he lost out.

      But it doesn’t end there. Duran was accused of sexual harassment by Owens, which I don’t actually think happened (I think Owens was digging for a pay out), but he did hire someone he hooked up with on Grindr, did not report this to HR, and knew he put the city in a vulnerable position by not disclosing that. He has shown zero remorse or apology to the city, the bad reputation it has given us, even if insurance covered the payment. Pure arrogance. He knew the right thing to do was to report that to HR, and it was inappropriate to not do so. He is an attorney, after all.

      Duran has done so many great things for the community, but it does not excuse sexual harassment, in any way, or any form, *if* those things happened, nor his lack of professionalism with the HR situation.

      And it goes on further. Community members have also been upset about things not related to sexual harassment. His outburst at the Democratic club, his rudeness to Ivy Bottini (calling a deputy to have her removed?), “Stormy Daniels” day, etc.. D’Amico said, at a Council meeting, that he saw Duran on Grindr, *during* a Council meeting (if true, that’s not only inappropriate, but shouldn’t be doing that on the job; what he does on his own time is his own business). He grandstands, and loves attention. Enough.

    2. A resume follows a person everywhere and forever.

      One can either build on positive efforts or destroy them through greed, avarice and questionable behavior.

      One does not need to face a judge and jury on this, one only needs to look into the mirror and be honest with one’s self.

      That is always the hardest task.

    3. What started as consensual, became an ill-advised employee/employer situation and devolved into a soap opera, or worse. Some insurance company decided that what might have started as consensual ended up being worth five hundred thousand smackeroos. Insurance companies ain’t dumb.

    4. Thank you to “Are You Trippin.” Brilliantly put. The egos that crawl out from under rocks to attack others at election time should walk a mile in the shoes of anyone in office and see how it feels. It’s easy to attack people, slander people, verbally destroy people, be cruel with your words. Words are cheap. John Duran’s kindness, intelligence, and genuine caring for those less fortunate are rare in politics and in this community judging by comments made here. John Duran is head and shoulders above any of this hateful rhetoric. Would you rather clone the plastic disingenuous current male councilmember trying to get re-elected? God help us all.

  21. The WEHO City Council is joined at the hip with John Duran. Which means for me and others I know… we will vote against returning D’Amico, Meister and Horvath to office. That could be avoided by demanding John Duran resign from office. The Creative City is now Duran’s “Sex City” and I’m embarrassed to tell people I’m even from West Hollywood.

  22. It is naive, at best, to think that in a world powered by social media a millenial would suggest that calls and emails to city hall are an accurate measure of community ire about the multiple issues relating to the soil occasioned to the city’s reputation by one of the five members of the council. It might speak more to the frustration that residents have with the imperious attitude permeating city hall, that calls and emails are often ineffective.

    The current councilmembers are the stewards of the city’s brand and reputation. We’re paying attention to how they steer the ship, and a change of command might be in order to face these rocky seas.

    As to Mr. Duran, it’s time for him to put his crafty and well-used grandiloquence to good use when he takes the stage to be a statesmen, to put his ego aside for the better of a city he professes to love, and to resign.

    1. Eloquent? NO!
      Statesman? NO!
      Crafty? YES!
      Slick? YES!

      Time to end exponential damage to the community and take the first step towards demonstrating humility? YES!

  23. Good points. however, the problem is Duran is West Hollywood’s Trump. Most people are afraid of him. council is afraid of him, which makes a casual observer wonder why? Does he have information about them? Voters are afraid to Vote him out because they are afraid of change, so they overlook his conduct. The old school ways of doing things in West Hollywood is not working anymore.

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