We have the right to expect our elected representatives to conduct themselves as responsible professionals focused on serving the people. They should not behave like irresponsible juveniles, egotistical and entitled elitists, or thin-skinned politicians focused on petty slights. Sadly, the last four years, John Duran has demonstrated he is the latter based on a series of acts that are unbecoming of an elected official and an embarrassment to the city of West Hollywood.
First there was Credit Card-gate, which began in 2011. After a two-year investigation the District Attorney’s office did not file charges, but Duran did reimburse the city over $4,500 in questionable expenses, plus the city ended the practice.
Apparently this investigation began as a way to “catch” another Council member’s deputy, only to reveal that Duran was dipping into the well a little too much. Just look at what the other Council members had to reimburse in contrast to Duran. Sadly, Duran lacked the character to take ownership of his excess and make amends. It is disheartening when public officials abuse the public trust to enhance their fragile egos.
Then, in 2012, there was @#$&!-gate. Remember when candidates in the California 50th State Assembly race took advantage of loose club rules in the Democratic Club endorsement process to secure the endorsement for Torie Osborn?
Duran took great umbrage with the process by swearing at the assembled body, only because he could not deliver the endorsement to his candidate of choice. As the Huffington Post put it, “Duran blew his top”. He spewed obscenities in this public forum that was covered by television news stations. As you can see from the article, he claims “Unfortunately, our club was overrun with outsiders, and we were not able to make an endorsement through a fair and transparent process with an open and honest exchange of ideas.” This from the man whose campaign coffers are habitually filled with funds from outside influences. Additionally, he had no problem being endorsed by this club just a year later that had two people sitting on the nominating and interview committee who both were commissioners appointed by Duran and the other incumbent. Elected officials should set an example for others to follow and not use bullying when they don’t get their way.
In 2013, we had Scare-gate. Duran’s fear-mongering, over-reaction and false statements regarding meningitis and sexually active gay men likely set back some forward movement on acceptance of such. For far too long people that fear and hate gay men also blame us for the spread of disease. Duran’s tactics were picked up on and reported widely by less than friendly “news” outlets only to be debunked by experts. I applaud Duran for all that he has done for the LGBT community over many years, certainly for HIV/AIDS and for marriage equality. This, however, was a public embarrassment that was more self-serving then it was about protecting the public.
Lastly, but not least, we have Deputy-gate. The spying began most likely as a way to embarrass another Council member and his deputy, only to have it boomerang and hit Duran with potential charges. If Duran’s now-suspended deputy’s claims are proven true, Duran knowingly hired him after a sexual encounter thus putting the city at risk. And since there is now a criminal investigation under way we don’t yet know what else might come to light or who else might be implicated.
For far too long people in our community have let this go with a “that’s just Duran” attitude or “gay men are more sexual then others” excuse. I do not care about his private life, but his lack of impulse control during his conduct in public is unacceptable. This is an elected official putting residents, visitors and business professionals in embarrassing and uncomfortable situations. This needs to stop.
I firmly believe in the American ideal of innocent until proven guilty. However, like most of you I can’t help but feel where there is smoke, there is fire. There have been enough incidents to justify suspicion.
I don’t want to wait for the next incident. It’s time to send a message now to Duran that this behavior is unacceptable.
Sam Borelli, an independent consultant and former West Hollywood Public Safety Commissioner, was a candidate in the March 2013 City Council election. This is published with his permission and originally appeared on his website, www.SamBorelli.com