I remember back in 1984 when a gay majority was elected to West Hollywood’s first City Council. There was reaction from around the country and around the world, not all favorable by any means, although other gay communities were ecstatic and there were accolades from around the world.
However, I read many comments from various places and publications, suggesting that gay people were undependable, sexually promiscuous, engaged in “sinful” behavior and were a bad influence on our country’s youth. They said that gay men and women couldn’t manage their own lives effectively, much less manage and build a city.
They were wrong of course, but the first blow to our reputation and credibility as a gay majority came when the city’s first mayor, a lesbian named Valerie Terrigno, was forced to resign, in 1986, after being convicted and sentenced for a crime she committed while on a previous job that had nothing whatsoever to do with her position on the City Council. However, Terrigno tried to use “homophobia” as a defense and claimed she was being attacked because of her sexuality. That premise was rejected, but I think it was particularly unfortunate that this very undesirable public event occurred so soon after our first election. It has left it’s blemish on our history.
That incident alone was difficult enough for the community to endure. But then Jeffrey Prang, another gay then-council member was accused of sexual harassment while on a trip for the city and ended up causing a $300,000 settlement payout by the city. Although Prang’s behavior was another blot on the City Council’s reputation, I understand that Prang was contrite and publicly apologized and moved on with no further such misbehavior. Terrigno and Prang were both held responsible for their behavior and each paid in their own way.
The John Duran “Deputygate” debacle and the subsequent sexual harassment accusations are an entirely different story. Apparently Duran felt entitled to the $500,000+ payout by the city as a result of his sexual misbehavior, and it seems he learned no lessons in controlling his excessive sexual urges, but continued to impose his aggressive sexually suggestive behavior freely on any other man he chose and under whatever circumstances he chose and wherever he chose, with no limits and no apologies, according to the current allegations and accusations.
I’m no expert, but I believe there is a potentially effective therapy for sexual addiction, although I don’t know if there is any such therapy for self-defeating narcissism that leaves one oblivious to the reality of their own behavior and to deny responsibility for the harm they impose on others or if they would even acknowledge their need for such treatment. Or even that there was anything wrong with their behavior in the first place.
I have respect for Duran’s strong and effective leadership in and for the gay community. I’d always hoped that the good from his leadership outweighed the not-so-good. I know he has done good things for many and has been an asset to West Hollywood itself in numerous ways. It’s very unfortunate that his professional and political skills and abilities have come to be overshadowed by his unwelcome sexual impositions on other men. It’s simply wrong and it needs to stop.
Duran also must stop “promoting” West Hollywood as a “sexually entitled” city. It’s not true, and it’s another unnecessary embarrassment. I also think a lot of Duran’s holier-than-thou behavior is a result of his monumental ego, for which there is no match on this City Council, although it’s quite common in politics in general. I won’t compare him to Donald Trump as many already have, as I’m sure that comparing him to a president – any president – would only puff him up even more. Presidential, John is not. But, once again, I very much appreciate Duran’s sincerity in his dedication to looking out for the best interests of the gay community, including the rejected and oppressed. That’s still very important in these days of continued discrimination and suppression of gay rights.
This, in the final analysis, is not about John Duran but about what’s best for the city. Still I don’t think Duran should resign from the Council as of now. I know he loves this city and I think he still has much more to offer in additional years of community service provided he behaves himself until he is termed out. I think Duran should, once and for all, make a well thought-out public apology, accept full responsibility for his past mistakes with a promise that it will never happen again. He owes that particularly to his loyal constituents who keep reelecting him and to the city that entrusts him with its reputation and wellbeing.
Failing an apology, or failing to make and live up to an apology and promise, it’s curtains for Duran, and he’s toast. I believe the choice at this point should be his. In addition, I don’t exactly see a promising lineup of qualified future candidates waiting for their cue from the wings. I hope that changes, but so far it remains. So for now, we need to make the most of the bird in the hand over the two in the bush, even in volatile political situations such as this.