Robert Oliver’s Call for Action on Sexual Harassment Allegations Against Mayor Duran

This is not an easy thing to say, but I think it needs to be said.

As a young gay man trying to excel in the political realm, I have been the recipient of inappropriate and unwanted sexual advances—both verbal and physical—by men who have held greater and more powerful titles than me. I have witnessed firsthand the entitlement with which some men in power feel they can force themselves on those less powerful than them. I remained silent in those experiences because I thought my speaking out would not only hurt my career, but that speaking out would be a futile endeavor.

And that brings me to my next issue, which, because of my leadership role in this city, I cannot stay silent on.

Robert Oliver (Photo by Elaine Lee)

Last week, a new wave of allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct were made against the mayor of our city. A number of news outlets, including the L.A. Times, reported these allegations made by three current or former Gay Men’s Chorus members.

One of them alleged Mayor Duran slipped his hand inside his waistband and made sexually inappropriate comments. Another said he left the chorus after Mayor Duran allegedly slipped his hand inside the waistband of his underwear in a changing room before a show — an alleged incident that he called “a traumatic and shocking experience.” A third man alleges inappropriate comments.

These allegations follow accusations of sexual harassment by the mayor’s former council deputy, and a lawsuit, which the city settled for a half million dollars. In my opinion, whether the cash came from a city account or an insurance provider is irrelevant—I think the cost to the city went beyond a dollar amount.

I believe that when you are councilmember, and especially when you are mayor, you never take off that hat—that the duration of your term in office in the city you is 24 hours a day.

And, I believe, when multiple allegations of misconduct are made against you, it is time to take a pause. When the story is not about West Hollywood anymore, but yet again about the alleged misconduct of its mayor, it’s to take an accounting of the situation. We should be speaking about quality of life issues for the tens of thousands who call this amazing city home, but instead, the headlines are about allegations of sexual misconduct.

If what we see in the L.A. Times is true, these are serious allegations! If what was alleged by these three individuals is true, I do not believe this man should hold public office.

I do not believe they have anything to gain by making up these allegations. In fact, they may face ridicule and have their stories picked apart. I think these three individuals are very brave for coming forward and telling their stories.

In other places, these allegations would have been enough for calls for an elected official’s resignation. In West Hollywood, we espouse the highest ideals. We are the Progressive City, yet we allow this to go unchecked in our own backyard. I think the silence speaks to a double standard, which I find astounding and embarrassing. It is time that the #MeToo movement comes to West Hollywood. Enough is enough.

It is my personal belief that there will be more allegations in the future. But I believe that what has been alleged thus far has crossed the line of acceptable behavior for an elected official.

Again, I hope the #MeToo movement will finally come to our city—the time will come when we stop automatically dismissing those who come forward to tell their stories. And, in the absence of hard evidence—when it comes down to he said / he said—why do we seem to always err on the side of the person in power, even in light of multiple serious allegations?

Luckily that has been changing in our country, but we must hold our leadership to the same standard we hold others. Before we fix the world, we need to fix ourselves. Otherwise, we are simply hypocrites.

I am calling on this commission to stand with me tonight in calling for Mayor Duran’s resignation. Our city can no longer act like these allegations aren’t happening or don’t matter.

I am also calling on all other commissions and advisory boards in this city to do the same.

And I am calling on the four other members of our City Council to hold their colleague accountable.

  1. He needs to go! SO many of us have witnessed his inappropriate behavior over the years and turned a blind eye.

    It is not only his inappropriate sexual advances to many MANY MANY men, but he should have been ousted when he was caught on camera trashing political signs of his opponents.

    To allow him to continue to serve on the City Council is an invitation for others to mimic the same behavior without consequences.

  2. The #MeToo Movement is all but a setback and a nuisance to legitimate victims. #MeToo Movement gives a voice to that girl who got upset with that guy because to him it was only a hook-up. It gives a voice to all those who rolled with it rather than said “no.” It diminishes the voice of individuals who are actual victims of sex crimes. It perpetuates the false narratives of extreme and misandrous feminists. The #MeToo Movement makes being a victim of a sex crime trendy and cool, and therefore should bring the legitimacy of any “#metoo claims” into question.

  3. HE MUST FINALLY RESIGN! Enough is enough! Wasn’t it bad enough when the City was dragged through the mud with his City Hall antics, of which the City paid dearly. Now this! Enough! If he won’t resign then the Council should remove him! He’s is a disgrace to this City!

  4. Thank you, Mr. Oliver, for taking a stand. When individuals make decisions to seek public office or high-profile positions in the community, they are held to a higher standard of behavior than those who do not. It’s a choice the individual makes and Mr. Duran’s refusal to curb his behavior for the sake of the city he represents reveals an unhealthy sense of entitlement that these rules don’t apply to him. This isn’t about sex and this isn’t about being gay – this is about an out of control ego that has tarnished us all – and the appalling lack of character presented by the rest of the City Council guarantees my vote AGAINST them.

      1. He wants respect and he offers a critique of one of his victim’s attractiveness as a defense. Is that a loser or what??

  5. Very well written. I agree with all of it. Any public official (or any professional) who cannot keep his/her personal proclivities in his/her personal life and brings them “on the job”, shows a great deal of lack of restraint and lack of respect of the people with whom he/she works. There is no room for sexual harassment or harassment of any kind in the workplace or while representing the Employer. There is nothing wrong with sex, as long as it is consensual and kept in one’s private life and not spill over to one’s professional life. I agree with Mr. Oliver that Mr. Duran should resign. He should do so at the next City Council meeting so the healing can begin immediately. If he refuses to resign, he most likely will be voted out in 2020 when the Election is in November with over 25,000 Voters instead of the same 5000. Sadly, one of the most important parts of Government, Accountability has not been applied much in West Hollywood, I am very disappointed that the other Council Members are staying silent on this matter. This is not the time to stay silent. Silence equals complicity. Silence on Ed Buck and this. What’s next?

      1. After much research, talking to many people and learning the facts, I retract my calling for John’s resignation.

  6. Bravo to Mr. Oliver for having the courage of his convictions and taking a principled stand in a city where few dare to do so. This is becoming an increasingly insular city where incestuous relationships between politics and non-profits and parochial interests intersect to the protection of what clearly has become a sanctuary city for sexual predators. The feckless balance of the council, and those who seek to serve on it, need to pay heed to the one profile in courage to emerge in this pathetic and embarrassing saga.

    1. Bravo to Mr. Strasburg and Mr. Oliver for both standing up and speaking out in support of what is best for the community. Expecting our elected leaders to do the same and behave in a way that is going to effectively
      lead and serve the community is .. well.. kinda the whole point.

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