Three West Hollywood City Council Members Ask John Duran to Step Down as Mayor

West Hollywood City Council members John D’Amico, Lindsey Horvath and Lauren Meister have posted statements on their Facebook pages this afternoon asking that John Duran step down as the city’s mayor.

“I continue to condemn sexual assault and harassment in all its forms and understand the importance of creating a safe environment in West Hollywood for residents, staff, appointed officials and visitors, regardless of gender and sexual orientation,” says D’Amico’s statement.

west hollywood city council, ian owens, deputygate
John Duran being sworn in as mayor pro tem in 2017 (Photo by Jon Viscott, courtesy of the City of West Hollywood)

“Recent allegations regarding John Duran are dividing us and our attention, moving the city away from the important work we do; providing affordable housing, social services, advocating for rail, helping seniors, filling pot holes, code compliance and planning, renovating our parks, being a beacon for LGBTQ people everywhere, the long list of good, regular city business we can accomplish every day. For the city we all love.

“To get our city back on track John Duran needs to step away from being Mayor immediately and consult his conscience about what happens next.”

Duran did not respond to requests from WEHOville for his comments on the suggestions he step down. However, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times he said he would not step down as mayor. Duran also suggested his fellow Council members were violating the law if they had coordinated their call for him to step down as mayor and for the district attorney to investigate them.

“If the three of them are talking about this, and it sounds like they are, that’s a violation of the Brown Act, and the district attorney should investigate,” Duran told the Times. “You can’t have meetings outside of public view.… Do I think that they all got the idea to put up their statements, all three, at the exact same time without talking to each other? No.”

The Ralph M. Brown Act is the state’s open meeting law. According to the Times, City Attorney Mike Jenkins said “the statements reflect the individual views of each council member and are not the result of a coordinated effort.”

D’Amico said the City Council had few options for dealing with the situation.

“If he does not take action on his own there are a limited set of actions for our City Council to take. We are able to demote John from his position as Mayor and / or censure him and remove his travel budget. We cannot remove John from office. And we have all asked that the City Clerk add an item to our Council agenda for the February 19 meeting so we can discuss the options in open session.

“I have genuine love for John and know that he would never want to harm our City, the city he has helped to invent, serving for nearly 20 years. I hope he will do what’s right – so that we can all immediately get back to the business of doing the City’s business.”

Councilmember Lindsey Horvath’s statement on Facebook says “First and most importantly, I condemn in the strongest terms sexual harassment and assault in all its forms. No matter whether it is perpetrated against a woman or man or gender non-conforming person, this behavior is wrong and it is unacceptable.

“I was deeply disturbed by the allegations made in a recent Los Angeles Times article about the Gay Men’s Chorus and its board chair, John Duran, and I am devastated to learn of more and similar stories since that report.

“Throughout this time, I have been in close contact with our City Manager and City Attorney, as well as my colleagues. Last night, I also spent time talking with former Commissioner Robert Oliver, who spoke out at last night’s Public Safety Commission meeting, as well as other long-time members of our community. I know I am not alone in saying that protecting our City has been and remains of the utmost importance to me.

“It is for this reason that I believe it is time for our Mayor to step away from his role on the Council. Our City cannot focus on the work of the people when we have to address new and numerous allegations of sexual misconduct, including whether our Mayor used his title to solicit sexual favors. It is not fair to the people of this City to continue seeing ‘West Hollywood’ in the same sentence as these allegations. Our City deserves better. #WeHo”

In her statement, Councilmember Lauren Meister also suggested that Duran “step away” from his position on the Council.

“Our strength as a City comes from our love for West Hollywood and from our shared values of compassion, respect and dignity,” Meister wrote.

“It is very difficult for me to see our city divided, particularly, on how to address the various allegations against Mayor John Duran.

“I am neither a judge nor jury and believe that all people deserve due process.

“However, as West Hollywood holds itself up as an example for us, we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard – one we expect from any public office from City Hall to the White House.

“West Hollywood as a city is suffering as a result of the numerous and repeated allegations against Mayor Duran. The City Council cannot force a resignation, ‘impeach’ a colleague, or remove them from office – only the voters can do that. I hope that it does not come to that and I have hope that Mayor Duran will do the right thing.

“I believe that Mayor Duran should do what’s best for the City – in this case, it would be to step down from the position of Mayor, and perhaps, step away from the Council position so that he can focus on these issues and the City can focus on moving forward.”

Councilmember John Heilman has not issued any statement about the allegations against Duran. Unlike D’Amico, Horvath and Meister, he is not running for re-election on March 5. Robert Oliver, a young gay man who is vice chair of the city’s Public Safety Commission, last night asked that Duran resign and pushed his fellow commissioners to do the same. Only one, Amanda Laflen, spoke up in support of Oliver, who then stepped down from his position as commissioner.

Duran recently announced that he will be stepping down as chair of Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, a non-profit whose board he has overseen for a number of years, after publication by WEHOville  and the L.A. Times of stories in which young members of the chorus alleged sexually inappropriate behavior by him and by Jonathan Weedman, the chorus’s executive director. Both Duran and Weedman have denied the allegations, and Duran has said he is leaving the board because of a “toxic” environment at GMCLA that he attributes to the allegations about him.

Duran has been accused of behavior like putting his hand into the underwear of chorus members and making inappropriate sexual comments to them. Weedman has been accused of forcing a then-20-year-old chorus member to perform oral sex on him. After WEHOville contacted GMCLA board members about the allegations, the organization hired private investigators to look into the allegation against Weedman and one of those against Duran. Duran has said neither investigator was able to gather evidence sufficient to validate the allegations.

In 2016 the City of West Hollywood settled a lawsuit in which Duran’s City Hall deputy, Ian Owens, accused him of sexual harassment. The city made a payment of $500,000 to Owens. Duran admitted hiring Ian Owens after meeting him on the Grindr hookup app and having sex with him. But he denied Owens’  allegations that he acted in a sexually inappropriate way as his boss, making comments in the office such as “I would bottom for you any day” and asking that Owens update his address book, sorting through lists of men Duran had had sex with that were said to have noted the size of their penis or their sexual skills.

Since the City Council members posted their statement on Facebook, two challengers in the March 5 election have made statements of their own.

“I attended last night’s Public Safety Commission meeting, where former Commissioner Robert Oliver spoke truth to power and shared a powerful statement about the allegations against John Duran recently publicized by the Los Angeles Times,” said Sepi Shyne.

“I agree with Mr. Oliver, in no uncertain terms. That is why I’m asking John Duran to resign from the West Hollywood City Council and allow our city to begin healing, and that is why I will work to establish strict policies for city officials and staff on day one to ensure no one is made to feel unsafe or threatened again, regardless of gender or sexuality.”

In her statement, Marquita Thomas stopped short of asking Duran to step down as mayor.

“As we learn about more and more allegations about a pillar in our community, I cannot help but have compassion for the victims and think about how our City’s legacy and leadership are being tarnished under the spotlight of public scrutiny,” Thomas said.

“As they say, ‘where there’s smoke, there’s fire,’ and we cannot stand idly by and watch the same things happen again and again as we have done elsewhere in this City.

“I love West Hollywood—that’s why I am running for City Council—and encourage anyone who feels the same to speak up and ask that our leaders do the right thing for the victims, for our values and for our reputation as a safe harbor for LGBT people around the country and the world.”

At a recent City Council candidates forum, challengers Brendan Hood and Tom Demille said that Duran should step down as mayor. Duke Mason, another challenger, has said that Duran should consider such a move.

  1. Having been on the receiving end of John Duran’s inappropriate behavior some 20 years ago, I can say without hesitation he is a sleazeball who pushes to get whatever he wants and has a huge distorted opinion of himself. I had hoped this kind of behavior had changed when he got sober, but clearly, he is the same douche bag he always has been. The LGBT community rails against our pathetic President for indecency and lack of any conscience, and yet we condone and support this man for 20 years? Shame on us.

  2. Why is no one mentioning James Duke Mason? He is the “new blood” that our City Council so desperately needs. People are mentioning other newcomers, including Marquita Thomas (who put a “gag order” on the Board of CSW to silence them during the CSW Pride fiasco controversy; that is NOT transparency and that is NOT what we need in the City of West Hollywood!). We need transparency. We need fresh, unencumbered leadership. Mason represents fresh, new, innovative leadership, as a young leadership talent, who still “gets it” about the legacy of West Hollywood as a haven for LGBT people, creative artists, Russian immigrants, and many others who need a safe haven who wouldn’t be as welcome in other communities, let’s face it. Mason has the legacy of “Old Hollywood” (his grandfather was the legendary James Mason; his mother is groundbreaking female music artist Belinda Carlisle), and he has a “clean slate” of nothing but service to the community (LGBT Advisory Board, etc.). If you want a West Hollywood that turns over a new leadership leaf this election, let’s all be talking about Mason!

    1. Clean slate and transparent? Unfortunately, at this moment there is no there there. Perhaps in time after he has cut the apron strings and steps out from under his umbrella. Everyone has promise.

  3. John Duran is ans has been an embarrassment to the city of West Hollywood for far too long. Do the right thing, John….resign from the City Council immediately, it’s overdue.

  4. I received a call yesterday from John D’Amico’s campaign asking for my vote in his bid for re-election. I kindly explained to the caller that i was unable to support John D’Amico in his re-election bid due to his support of and endorsement by John Duran. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has expressed this sentiment. For D’Amico and Horvath, both of whom accepted and boast of Duran’s endorsement in their campaign mailings, their calls for him to step down are too little too late. Neither one deserves to be re-elected in March 5th.

    Sadly, with so many people running for the three seats, I’m fearful that they will get re-elected as any meaningful opposition is usually diluted because West Hollywood does not allow for runoff elections. Perhaps it’s time to amend our city charter to enact a runoff system. It seems ridiculous that individuals get re-elected /elected with 20% of the vote.

    1. Please consider the finer points here. Accepting and rejecting one’s endorsement especially from a colleague is a tricky situation at best even without the proverbial firestorm that has erupted and the timing of any campaign literature. It has always appeared to me through personal experience on city matters that Lindsey Horvath is her own person with a good compass. She appears thoughtful and consistent in her reasoning much to the opposite of John Duran and John D’Amico.

    1. The Court of Public Opinion is what the community might be interested in and not in tolerating this continuing unacceptable behavior. If individuals want to pursue legal charges against John Duran so be it, but folks would probably be happy if he just disengaged and moved away from sight. To the individuals harmed, consider this: You can either live your life or be engaged in a law suit, you can’t do both.

      Leave John Duran to defending criminal miscreants and/or possible himself.

  5. On the issue of Mr. Duran and the allegations against him, I agree with the comments of Steve Martin, Michael G and Alan Strasburg. Mr. Duran is a distraction to the good sense of the city and its reputation. I hope by the time of the next city council meeting,he will have the good sense to step down from office. If he really loves West Hollywood and what it stands for, he will do this. It is too bad this is diminishing his past accomplishments,but it is what it is.

  6. John Duran’s swarmy message on his Grindr page, circulating on social media, pitching a sexual bonus because he’s mayor of WEHO is so pathetic that he needs to resign as soon as possible.

    As for Horvath and D’Amico, they won’t ask Duran to leave office because they could care less if Duran is hitting on young men. They should not be re-elected.

    Meister at least wants Duran out.

    And John Heilman! He must be lurking in the stacks and hiding at some law library of whatever place he’s teaching currently.

    This is the State of the Union in West Hollywood.

    Duran, get the message you are Eighty Sixed! Your sex based City wants you gone from West Hollywood City Hall along with Horvath and D’Amico!

    1. This message is out of line with respect to Lindsey Horvath and John D’Amico. The comment about John Heilman is also unnecessarily inflammatory. For several years wild, unproven statements have been made by this commenter regarding the “Townscape Three” and threats of an FBI investigation that have never gotten any traction.

      Speak for yourself and not for those you assume want Horvath & D’Amico gone from City Hall. That is why we have elections.

  7. Step down as mayor??? How laughable. The position doesn’t mean squat in West Hollywood. Just a title. Council: time to grow a pair and tell him to quit before this fool costs the city any more money ……and puts us on the map internationally yet again for all of the wrong reasons.

  8. Mr. Duran can and should maintain a positive legacy for his long-service to many causes, but we must reject any calls that such legacy should afford him some deference on the present matters. It does not.

  9. Council member Heilman’s silence speaks volumes. And for this community member, that is not a good thing.
    Losing a swing vote may be more important to Mr. Heilman than our city’s values.

    I applaud Robert Oliver.

    1. These three Council members JUST made these posts, about 2 hours and 45 minutes ago (around 2 PM PST). Not to be a Heilman-defender, but as far as I know, he doesn’t even use social media, and even if he does, you want to make this about him, even though it has been less than 3 hours since this all went down?

      1. I agree with Randy. This isn’t about Heilman at all. We don’t want our legislators making decisions by way of social media posts (like #45 governs), but rather they serve us best by debating issues in a public meeting where everyone can participate. Heilman should be judged by the position he takes in a public meeting, not on whether or not he posted something to Facebook.

    2. It has LONG been time for Heilman to move along! These people are PRIME examples of term limits. They have taken cronyism to a new height.
      As a result of developers “hotel building orgy”, traffic in this once small village is a nightmare, crime rampant, affordable housing poof!

  10. The three council members up for reelection are finally calling for his resignation. Too little too late as they have all already lost my vote and that of many others. This is political theatre playing out in front of the residents of West Hollywood all so incumbents can save their seats on the city council.

    I look forward to casting my ballot for Brendan Hood, Sepi Shyne and Marquita Thomas in the upcoming election. D’Amico, Horvath, and Meister have got to go and are part of the problem with the leadership or lack thereof in West Hollywood.

  11. Good! Weho’s dignity is being run into the ground by a mayor who says the city is based on sex. Being represented to the world by people like this is extremely difficult for people who are mentally balanced.

  12. While the calls for resignation are long overdue, better late than never. The ongoing John Duran show has been an embarrassment to the City for years and has eroded our credibility as a bastion of progressive values.

    I hope John Duran will do the right thing. It is sad to see how Duran has squandered his hard earned legacy with his self absorbed behavior. Unfortunately for years his Council colleagues and other community leaders have stood silent, becoming enablers and put their relationship with Duran over their duties to serve the public. It has been painful to watch Duran become a parody of the idealistic person he used to be. If Duran puts the good of the community first, he will find that he will find West Hollywood to be very forgiving.

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