Opinion: At Least WeHo Didn’t Declare an ‘Official’ Michael Avenatti Day

Michael Avenatti, Daniels’ lawyer, at the May 23 “Stormy Daniels Day” event in West Hollywood

They sure know how to pick ‘em! 

But while some of our City Council members have welcomed him to WeHo with open arms on three occasions, at least none of them has (yet) declared a “Michael Avenatti Day.”

Avenatti is/was the lawyer who represented stripper and porn performer Stormy Daniels (remember West Hollywood’s “Stormy Daniels Day”?) in her unsuccessful lawsuits against President Donald Trump. In October of last year, a federal judge dismissed the defamation lawsuit and said Daniels would have to pay Trump’s as-yet-undisclosed legal bills. 

Luckily for Stormy, it seems Avenatti has (or had?) the money to cover that. He was just indicted on 36 counts of fraud, perjury, failure to pay taxes, embezzlement and other financial crimes in which he allegedly raked in millions.

The Los Angeles Times reports that “Avenatti stole millions of dollars from five clients and used a tangled web of shell companies and bank accounts to cover up the theft, the Santa Ana grand jury alleged in an indictment that prosecutors made public Thursday.”

Among those he allegedly ripped off was a mentally ill paraplegic, who never received the $4 million lawsuit settlement Avenatti negotiated. Then there was that client who didn’t receive the $2.75 million settlement he was owed, $2.5 million of which Avenatti allegedly used to buy a private jet. 

Stormy Daniels, aka Stephanie Clifford, with Mayor John Duran on left and attorney Michael Avenatti on right.

The City of West Hollywood entertained Avenatti on May 23 when he joined Stormy Daniels for a celebration of what Mayor John Duran declared “Stormy Daniels Day” on the sidewalk outside an adult sex store on Santa Monica Boulevard. She received a proclamation from then Mayor Duran and the key to the city from Councilmember John D’Amico.  The City of West Hollywood received national if not international media coverage, not all of it promoting the city as some of us would like to be seen.

“You two were absolutely giddy,” lesbian activist Ivy Bottini said to Duran and D’Amico in one of a number of criticisms of the event. “You were like 12-year-olds.  Did you have fantasies?”

Then on July 26, Duran invited Avenatti back to WeHo to participate in a panel entitled “An Update on Washington D.C. Politics: the Mueller Investigation, Human Rights and Immigration, and the Future of Resistance.”  Avenatti took time then to say he was thinking of running for President of the United States, which would have added a hilarious second season to the reality TV show that is the White House of today.

And on July 31, Avenatti was featured on a panel moderated by Duran about Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policies, where opening remarks were delivered by Duran and D’Amico.

So West Hollywood is associated by some with Stormy Daniels and also with Michael Avenatti, whose infamy continues to grow. What’s wrong with that? Nothing if you’re a City Council member with an obsession for national recognition. After all, as the saying goes, “Any publicity is good publicity so long as they spell your name right and it doesn’t involve sex with children.”

But if you’re elected to local office and really have the city’s welfare and reputation at heart, maybe it’s better to focus on local issues, keeping your head bent down over those thick documents on the City Council dais rather than keeping it lifted up to look into TV cameras. Maybe, rather than have the City Council vet which films the Arts Division can screen, the city’s Public Information Office should be vetting who City Council members invite to public events.

And when it comes to issues to focus on, maybe, as Larry Block, West Hollywood’s unofficial rabble-rouser, likes to say: It’s time to “think local!”

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About Henry (Hank) Scott
Henry (Hank) Scott is publisher of WEHOville.com. Scott is a journalist and media business executive who has worked at newspapers as varied as the weekly Butner-Creedmoor (N.C.) News, circulation 1,200, and The New York Times. henry@wehoville.com

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19 Comments
  1. John Duran is the elephant in the room.

    How can the WEHO Citizens take him seriously when he has over a dozen federal tax liens amounting to more than $100,000?

    With that kind of personal debt hanging over your head, should the citizens of West Hollywood not wonder if Duran’s votes regarding commercial projects are not clouded over his obvious financial problems?

    Unfortunately, we don’t have a Mayor Pete running West Hollywood. He would never allow someone like Duran to continually play and hide behind the “gay card.”

    Except for Lauren Meister, the other councilmembers seem to be enablers for Duran Including the city manager. What are the reasons for that?

    These kind of issues, politicians who have financial problems, usually prompt initial investigations regarding possible corruption or conflicts of interest by the FBI. Maybe they will take a close look at the elephant in the room.

    1. Agree with everything you said (except I don’t know much about Meister), but how would the FBI ever know that they should look? Serious question. I doubt they read these boards, so I’m just wondering out of curiosity.

      1. Blogs and online news sites are considered media since a major decision by the Federal Election Commission in 2007 in favor of the Daily Kos and myself after a lawsuit by a conservative blogger against Kos and US Congresswoman Mary Bono against me.

        Therefore, WEHOville is the main media coverage for West Hollywood and a professional journalistic record of everything surrounding the John Doran issues, etc. It just needs to be pulled together, documented from WEHOville along with news coverage from the LA Times to Daily Mail to file an initial complaint with the FBI.

        With the WEHO City Council’s attacks against Trump along with a new Attorney General and head of the FBI, I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t be open to investigating such a complaint.

        I witnessed it happen in Palm Springs when over a 100 plus FBI agents should up one morning at PS City Hall. It could easily happen here. West Hollywood and its politians aren’t immune from it happening. So let’s organize and file.

  2. move on, Move On, MOVE ON! Rehashing this tripe is mindless. Whoever has obsessions with the batch of miscreants is another story but the community should MOVE ON. Marginalize these folks, exclude them from the dialogue Let law enforcement deal with them and move to more productive ideas.

  3. EXCELLENT piece. So sad that our local officials hailed the likes of Avenatti and Daniels…in front of a porn shop no less. Talk about being good role models for the youth of America. Makes me want to throw up. Absolutely disgusting. FOCUS ON LOCAL ISSUES..we have plenty. HOMELESS, CRIME, GRAFFITI, TRASH!

  4. It was cheesy….. sometimes, that works for Weho. Key to the city should be reserved for a more dignified recipient. And yes, John Duran shows bad judgement, as has been evidenced. And this was another example.

  5. @Randy. “This publication is obsessed with John Duran”? Hmmm. Let’s see. Duran is chair of GMCLA, whose director is accused of sexually abusing a young man. That’s a story. Duran tells Wehovile that he also was accused. That’s a story. Then the LA Times says three young men accused Duran of sexxual misconduct. That’s a story. Then the LA Times publishes an editorial saying Duran should resign. That’s a story. Then Duran resigns as chair of GMCLA. That’s a story. Then Duran tells a buddy of his that he couldn’t have stuck his hand down the pants of a GMCLA guy because “he’s a young Korean kid, with pimples on his face.” That’s a story. Then the Stonewall Democrats condemn Duran. That’s a story. Then a couple of Asian political groups condemn Duran. That’s a story. Then Duran gives a radio interview and says he’s the only one on the city council with a real sex life. That’s a story. Then Duran gives another interview and says two of his fellow councilmembers haven’t had sex in 20 years and one doesn’t have much sex because he’s married (to a man). That’s a story. (Whew, we’re at 11 stories now). Then the city council strips him of certain privileges. That’s a story. Then the city council censures him. That’s a story. So you wonder why John Duran’s name comes up when you do a search on wehoville? Hah. They don’t make the news. They just write it.

    1. Monica, I’ve read each and every story and editorial. I agree that all, if not most, of what you listed, are stories. But Hank can decide for himself what he decides to be news, and what is not news.

      Here are some things I think might be non-stories, or re-hashes:

      – This editorial. This was last year’s news. Much has been said and written about the Stormy Daniels event.

      – “Motion to censure Duran, City Attorney hasn’t got around to it” – not a story, because they acknowledged that might take a minute. They got to it within two Council meetings after the initial discussion. The article about the censure vote was preceded by “City Council Will Consider Whether to Censure John Duran at Monday’s Meeting.” Maybe a story? But do we get a rundown of every agenda item before and after? No, we don’t. We do for a lot, I acknowledge.

      – Story about illegal massage parlors with Duran’s quote in the headline, and his mention in the article (“WeHo, the ‘Sex-Based’ and Largely Gay City, Has Many Heterosexual (and Maybe Illicit) Massage Parlors”) – a slam on Duran, not really relevant to the Duran happenings. But his name was associated with that, and his quote “sex-based.”

      – The collective organizations and individuals who have asked him to step down: some are stories, some not. But it seems like we received a rundown, each and every time someone asked him to step down. Almost a daily thing, for awhile. Fine, maybe those all qualify as stories. I’d argue that they don’t all warrant an article, especially when half of the info in the article might be a re-hash of what has already happened.

      – “City Hall Says It Can’t Substantiate Other Allegations Against Mayor Duran” – a story about him hitting on a person who isn’t employed by city hall, during his personal time, while on a company trip. OK, that person is married to a city hall employee, who also happens to have been an opponent during an election a few years ago. Maybe a story. I would argue that even on a company trip, you aren’t on company time 100%. Two consenting adults engaging on a hook-up app. One could have blocked the other. Grindr screenshots seemed to be there for shock value.

      Once again, I’m not a Duran defender, even though I might sound like one. I condemn any illegal actions he may have taken (after due process), and most certainly condemn his unprofessional behavior, at the very least (talking about other Councilmembers’ sex lives, attacking his accusers, not apologizing for hiring someone he had a prior sexual relationship to HR).

      I just think this is overkill, just like when I launch my Apple News, and see 60%-80% of stories with the word “Trump” in them, on most given days. Like there is nothing going on in the world. There is more going on in our city than this.

      As I said before, the city has taken action, probably as much as they can do. If people are passionate about his removal, they can start a recall campaign. In fact, election day would have been a good day to do that, as you need 20% of registered voters to form a recall campaign, and we barely had that many people show up to the polls. So standing outside polling places might have been a good idea, if one is so passionate about this subject. Otherwise, it is going to be a long and slow operation to get those signatures.

      But when can we move on? Anything else going on in the city? For those that want his removal … read my last paragraph. We do have other things to focus focus on. Development. Traffic. Homelessness.

      Hank, I appreciate your coverage and my criticism, and hope you publish this comment.

      1. Duran posts on Grindr do you want to blank the mayors blank and you think this publication is obsessed? or the city pays $500,000 to settle a lawsuit and you think Duran is being singled out. Duran earns the press and like Trump loves it. He don’t care if its good or bad he cares that he is getting laid and using his power to give out commission appointments and money to his pet causes.

        1. I clearly stated examples of what I think is over-coverage in my last comment. The Owens affair was covered, and that ship has sailed. I’m talking about recent events, and all of my examples reference recent coverage.

          As far as Duran being on Grindr, so what? If I was a public figure, I personally would probably would stay off it, mostly because I know that some conservative people would have a problem with it. But I personally don’t have a problem with Duran using Grindr. Who cares? If I can be on it, why can’t he?

          When and where did he say “do you want to blank the mayors blank?” If he said such a thing, that would be kind of a dumb thing to say.

      2. The Avenatti indictments made this a very timely and appropriate commentary on the lingering issue of grandstanding in our small town.

  6. As soon as John Duran became “Mayor” he created the Stormy Daniels Day and welcomed this sleazy corrupt lawyer to West Hollywood for one reason: to showboat John Duran.

    In any other city in the USA, Duran would be history. He would have been forced to resign after endless allegations of sexual harassment, racism, investigations by the L.A. District Attorney plus a $500,000 payout to his assistant he hired after a one night stand from his hook-up on Grindr where he advertises himself still as mayor as you can see from his Facebook account. The city manager, who needs Duran for an outrageous salary and salmon lunches, doesn’t bother to tell Duran to remove any reference online for still being mayor. The other four council members should have told him to resign, not as “Mayor” but as a city council member. But three of them, Horvath, D’Amico, and Heilman need his vote to satisfy all the developers they’ve taken “pay for play” money from. Like Townscape for openers.

  7. West Hollywood has become a national joke. Stop trying to be a “Gay City” and just be a city that works for everyone. Do the basics…..

    The City Council is a sad bunch. And we have a Mayor……who can’t even walk the streets without people yelling at him.

    Shameful situation.

  8. Why is this being drummed up, again? We get it, this was a debacle. And this wasn’t an “Avenatti Day.” It was a “Stormy Daniels” day. Not the best idea, but the intention was good. It was a protest against the most corrupt person to hold the highest office in our land, at least since I’ve been alive. Yes, a debacle. But not because anyone knew about Avenatti’s level of corruption at that time. If they did, I’d like to see proof.

    I admire our City’s ability to not just focus on “local issues,” once in awhile. Even if this was a flop. This has been part of our City’s political culture since its founding. To stand up, and make a stir with national, or world politics. Once again, even if this was a flop. A current example: the proposed boycott of the Beverly Hills Hotel, on the agenda for this Monday. It is taking a stand against an anti-gay government, and not what some would define as a “local issue.” While the City of Beverly Hills sits on their hands and does nothing.

    “Nothing if you’re a City Council member with an obsession for national recognition.” – perhaps this publication is as obsessed, even if not more, with John Duran? I’m not defending any of his actions by saying that, but enter his name in the search box, and see how many articles come up. Not just negative news articles, many of which re-hash the same information, again and again, but opinion pieces against him, such as those by Steve Martin (if I recall, three months in a row last year, and one within days of the Duran’s mother dying, which I thought was extremely tacky). Once again, I do not defend Duran’s actions by pointing this out. But how much focus needs to be made on him, at this point?

    Can we all just move on, please? The city has taken action against Councilmember Duran, about as much as they can take. It is now up to the voters to not re-elect him, or pursue a recall campaign. In the meantime, Duran has been slapped in the hand, powers taken away, resigned as Mayor (before they would could have removed him). We have more important business to focus on.

    Regarding Avenatti, how do we know that Duran (or anyone else in our city government) knew about his level of corruption, just like how do we know that anyone on our Council knew about Buck’s propensity for preying on, and shooting up young men with meth? That is pure speculation. And as far as Avenatti goes, I would argue that his corruption is a drop in the bucket compared to our Commander-in-Chief’s.

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