The City of West Hollywood will consider contracting with Los Angeles County to provide means for city employees to file complaints of discrimination or harassment and to have those complaints investigated.
L.A. County has established a County Equity Investigations Unit that looks into complaints of discrimination and harassment and, if warranted, sends them to the County Equity Oversight Panel, an independent group of employment law experts, which recommends actions for the county to take.
The proposal, brought forth by Mayor John D’Amico and City Councilmember Lindsey Horvath, will be on the West Hollywood City Council’s Monday meeting agenda. It comes after the city has struggled to deal with allegations of improper behavior by City Councilmember John Duran. A city employee, Mike Gerle, who has been placed on administrative leave, filed a complaint about a public and sexual comment that Duran made to a photographer at a city event in West Hollywood Park.
Duran also has been the subject of complaints of inappropriate sexual comments or actions by several young members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, a non-profit organization whose board he once chaired. While GMCLA is not associated with the city, Duran’s response to those complaints included comments about the sex lives of his fellow City Council members that some found offensive. The Council has responded by censuring him and barring him from travelling at the city’s expense. It also requires that his official email messages be reviewed by a city official and that he not be allowed to meet one on one with a city employee unless a city official is present.
Duran also was the subject of a law suit filed in 2015 by Ian Owens, his City Council deputy, who alleged sexual misconduct. Duran has denied all allegations against him. However, the city settled the Ian Owens lawsuit with a payment of $500,000 to the plaintiff.
The Los Angeles County policy of equity “is intended to preserve the dignity and professionalism of the workplace as well as protect the right of employees to be free from discrimination, sexual harassment, unlawful harassment (other than sexual), retaliation, and inappropriate conduct toward others based on a protected status,” says a memo to the Council about the proposal. “Protected classifications include age; ancestry; color; ethnicity; religious creed; denial of family and medical care leave; disability; marital status; medical condition; national origin; race; sex; gender; gender identity; gender expression; sexual orientation; and any other characteristic protected by state or federal law.”
West Hollywood currently has an internal review process for harassment and discrimination complaints. The city’s Harassment Discrimination and Retaliation Prevention Policy and Complaint Procedure
The proposed contract with Los Angeles County will provide an additional level of assurance that evaluations and investigations of complaints are done independent of the investigators work at or with City Hall.
The City Council will meet at 6:30 p.m. on Monday at the City Council Chambers, 625 N. San Vicente Blvd., south of Santa Monica. Parking is free in the five-story structure behind the Council Chambers with a ticket validated in the lobby.