The WeHo Election Heats Up With Larry Block Calling Out John Duran for His Tax Liens

John Duran campaign signs on a fence around a parking lot on the corner of Ogden and Santa Monica Boulevard

The heat is on!

With only 39 days to go before the Nov. 3 City Council election, email messages have been circulating accusing various candidates of taking unusual (and unlikely) positions, such as one in which Larry Block is purported to confess that he only is running for office to drain away votes from incumbents so that Sepi Shyne can win. (Block is much more a Shyne opponent than a Shyne supporter.)

But at Monday night’s virtual City Council meeting, Block himself stepped forward to call out incumbent John Duran for having campaign signs posted on public property and for saying “experience matters” and “no time for amateurs” on those signs.

John Duran

“I agree,” Block said in regard to the claim that experience matters. “None of the candidates have experience being asked to step down as mayor. None of the candidates have any experience being censured by their colleagues. All of us have no experience lying to the Human Resources Department at City Hall, or giving Stormy Daniels a key to the city. And I’m guessing most of us pay our fair share of taxes.”

In those comments before the Council, Block alluded to a host of issues involving Duran, the most controversial member of the West Hollywood City Council in the city’s 36-year history, issues that have barely been mentioned in the campaign thus far. While many of the issues have been gotten media attention across the country, Duran’s failure to pay his taxes hasn’t been talked about.

Block called Duran out for having liens filed against him for non-payment of more than $9,000 in state taxes and tens of thousands of dollars in federal taxes, some of which have been paid down somewhat.

Earlier Scandals

In 2015, WEHOville reported that Duran recruited a young gay man to a well-paid job as his City Council deputy after meeting him on Grindr, the gay sex hookup app, and having sex with him. Ian Owens was a controversial figure at City Hall and sued the city and Duran, alleging Duran sexually harassed him on the job. The city settled the suit with a payout of $500,000 rather than let the matter go to trial. Duran has said that a private investigator hired by the city reported no misbehavior on his part. However, that investigator did say there was evidence Duran engaged in sexually inappropriate discussions with staff.

In a trial involving City Council deputy Michelle Rex, Owens testified that Duran talked often to his deputy about his sex life, including his visits to the “glory holes” at the Zone, a sex club east of La Brea Avenue. And he affirmed a statement by Jill Williams, a lawyer representing the City of West Hollywood, that Duran had made “comments that he had bottomed for you, showed you pictures from Grinder …. That he wanted to have a three-way with your married best friend.” During the trial, Owens also shared an image of an email exchange with Duran in which the Council member characterized the vagina of a prominent female neighborhood leader as “an unused box.”

Larry Block

Despite that, Duran was re-elected in 2017 with the endorsements of prominent figures including then-Mayor John D’Amico and contributions from real estate developers including the Illoulian family (Jason Illoulian’s Faring is a prominent local developer), and Latham & Watkins, a law firm with offices in Century City and Los Angeles that represents developers with projects in West Hollywood.

The next round of controversy involved Duran’s position as chair of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, a non-profit that solicited and received major donations from businesses seeking to do business with the City of West Hollywood. They include Athens Services, which won a 15-year renewal of an exclusive contract to pick up trash in the city, and a number of cannabis companies that were seeking licenses to operate in West Hollywood. In 2018, WEHOville reported that a young member of GMCLA had alleged that its executive director, Jonathan Weedman, had forced the 20-year-old to have sex with him, an accusation Weedman has denied. That exposé led to Weedman stepping down and other young Chorus members coming forward to allege sexually inappropriate behavior by Duran, which he has denied.

Duran denied the allegation of sexually inappropriate behavior from one young Chorus member, saying he wouldn’t have done that because the young man was “a skinny Korean kid with pimples on his cheek.” That led to condemnations of Duran from organizations such as Stonewall Democrats, Christopher Street West, API Equality-LA, an Asian and Pacific Islander LGBTQ community organization, and even GMCLA. In an editorial, the Los Angeles Times also condemned Duran for his behavior, saying his excuses for his sexual behavior were similar to excuses from Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump. One of GMCLA’s most prominent donors, Ariane Getty, stepped off the board and soon Duran gave up his position as chair and also left the board.

Other young gay men not associated with GMCLA also came forward, accusing Duran of using his title as mayor of West Hollywood in soliciting sex from them on online apps. A young attorney who spoke with WEHOville on the condition that his name not be used said that Duran had reached out to him on Grindr, texting “Don’t you want to be able to tell your friends that you sucked the mayor’s d-ck?” The man, who took a screenshot of the conversation, declined.

Demonstrators showed up at West Hollywood City Council meetings to protest Duran’s behavior, also calling out his apparent effort to discourage young sex workers from coming forward to testify against Ed Buck. Buck, a gay white man, is a friend and former client of Duran’s and is known for his donations to Democratic Party candidates, including Duran. Buck now is in federal prison awaiting trial on charges related to the deaths of two Black men of drug overdoses in his Laurel Avenue apartment.

City Council members eventually voted to censure Duran after he stated in a radio interview that he was the subject of allegations of sexual misconduct because, “Let’s face it. I’m the only, I think, sexually active member of the City Council. I don’t want to besmirch my colleagues, but I mean, I don’t think any of them are having the level of activity I am.” In another interview Duran offered more observations about the sex lives of specific Council members.

In the months after the City Council’s April 2019 vote to censure Duran, he was embraced by prominent leaders of the LGBT community. On his Channel Q online radio program he hosted Lorri Jean, the CEO of the Los Angeles LGBT Center; Richard Ayoub, CEO of Project Angel Food; Rabbi Denise Eger of Congregation Kol Ami; Lucia Chappelle and Keith Mozingo of the Metropolitan Community Churches, and Chris Bowen, a member of the Stonewall Young Democrats.

In recent months, Duran has gotten the endorsements of State Assembly member Richard Bloom, who represents WeHo in Sacramento, and Josh Kurpies, a West Hollywood resident who works for Bloom. Former L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky gave his support to Duran as did former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, former California State Assembly Speaker John Perez, and former Santa Monica Mayor Bobby Shriver.

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Jonathan Simmons
Jonathan Simmons
29 days ago

Duran needs to go.. 10 years ago. BUT IF ILLEGAL TO PUT SIGNS ON PUBLIC PROPERTY, THE CITY IS SMALL ENOUGH TO REMOVE THEM IMMEDIATELY AND SHOULD THEY SEE THE PERSON PUTTING SIGNS UP DURING REMOVAL RUNS, TICKET OR ARREST (whatever the legal/criminal Laws referred to be taken) If not done (the removal) by the City, I believe The City at minimum is Complicit or A member of a criminal conspiracy leading to this article which on the surface looks like political attacks with no substance to really follow through (assuming there is Codes in Local or State Law on… Read more »

Chris
Chris
29 days ago

For years WeHo held “off year” elections on the grounds that they didn’t want local candidates to get lost at the bottom of a long ballot. But that resulted in very low voter turnout. Now, WeHo elections are being held with the regular general election and voter turnout will, of course, be much higher. There is finally a good chance to kick John Duran out. The only problem in WeHo is usually there are not really any great alternatives.

Sean
Sean
27 days ago
Reply to  Chris

Exactly. It’s interesting that the highest turnout city council election in WeHo history was actually its first, held coincident with the Presidential election in 1984. It was moved to April and, then, to the off year and never beat that first elections turnout.

Michael Grace
Michael Grace
1 month ago

Since John Duran has an overwhelming history of California and Federal tax liens totaling over $300,000, every voter is obviously questioning how were these paid off. Especially because of his long term in office which is littered with scandal, lawsuits, D.A. investigations, and dozens of pay for play accusations plus the possibility of discounted office rent for his business from landlords who back political candidates.  Duran currently has four outstanding tax liens totaling $29,941. Besides the $9118 owed the California Franchise Tax Board, he has three different outstanding Federal Tax Liens since 2014 & 2015 on extension until 2025 and 2026. … Read more »

Crooked Councilmember
Crooked Councilmember
1 month ago

A search came up with this history: 11/14/94. Federal Tax Lien $14,390 3/7/96 Federal Tax Lien $10,283 12/10/96 State Tax Lien $2803 1/18/97 State Tax Lien release 8/21/98 Federal Tax Lien $25,903 4/27/2000 Federal Tax Lien $56,654 8/4/03 Federal Tax Lien $40,856 11/04 Federal Tax release $14,390 3/2005 Federal Tax release $5,195 1/2007 Federal Tax Lien $27,752 4/2007 Federal Tax Lien $5,550 3/2008 Federal Tax Lien new $19,359 12/2008 Federal Tax Lien $32,427 3/2009 Federal Tax Lien $39,191 4/2012 Federal Tax Lien $35,354 6/2012 Federal Tax Lien $27,976 8/2013 Franchise Tax Board State Tax Lien $26,407 4/2013 State Tax Lien… Read more »

Art
Art
1 month ago

Throw da bum OUT!

:dpb
:dpb
27 days ago

Thank you. Duran’s just another Trump. Worse actually – he’s impersonating a Democrat.

Crooked Councilmember
Crooked Councilmember
1 month ago

Wow

Bax
Bax
1 month ago

Let’s not forget the DA’s investigation into credit card abuse. Maybe he didn’t break the law, but his expenses were multiple times higher than any other council member, going to some of the most expensive restaurants in the city on the tax payers dime. There seems to be a clear pattern here of using his position for personal gain, whether it’s free meals, free sex, or campaign contributions from the real estate industry in exchange for votes. Probably should have recused himself from voting on smoking legislation, seeing as he’s represented the marijuana industry. Just too much scandals and conflicts… Read more »

:dpb
:dpb
1 month ago

Sorry to say, but Duran is our own small town Donald Trump. The parallels: ego, lies, sexual inappropriate behavior, rancor and extortionist behavior. And our city council members are no better than those in the Trump administration looking away. They’re so concerned with events happening across the world and trying to insert themselves into a shining hero roll that they are contributing to the degradation that Duran puts upon the city.

Vigilant
Vigilant
1 month ago
Reply to  :dpb

Exactly. Additionally when a thoughtful item was presented last evening about recognizing indigenous people on West Hollywood land Duran objected. Rather than adding to the import by including the folks he indicated were not recognized, thus making the idea more significant, he did the small thing….took his cards and figuratively went home. That in and of itself was disrespecting and minimizing his own people. An unmistakable illustration of SMALLNESS. No room for smallness, no room for Duran. BTW, John Heilman voted in favor although not before indicating its triviality. Words matter. These folks are well past their expiration date. Endorsements… Read more »

Old Timer
Old Timer
1 month ago

Why is Duran always taking credit for the WeHo economy when he lives in a rent controlled apartment and still cannot pay his taxes. Something doesn’t pass the smell test.

Art
Art
1 month ago
Reply to  Old Timer

Throw da bum OUT!

Bax
Bax
1 month ago
Reply to  Old Timer

If he can’t manage his personal finances, how can he be trusted to manage a $141MM city budget?

hifi5000
hifi5000
1 month ago

John Duran needs to be voted out as city councilperson as he is a poor example of West Hollywood’s representation.The tax liens are a serious matter as he was negligent or dishonest with his tax obligations.

After reading the last two paragraphs of this story with all the endorsements,I am sorry to say he will be re-elected,no questions asked. All I can say is you get the government you voted for.

Tom Smart
Tom Smart
1 month ago

Duran is disgusting, he’s cocky and his “amateur” campaign signs are cocky. This guy needs to be kicked to the curb.

Art
Art
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom Smart

Throw da bum OUT!

Jay
Jay
1 month ago

Touché Larry!