Council Deputy Ian Owens’ Lawyer Makes Last Minute Effort to Stall ‘Deputygate’ Reform

In an apparent last minute attempt to save the job of his client, the lawyer for West Hollywood City Council deputy Ian Owens is trying to portray an effort to reform the controversial deputy system as an act of prejudice against a gay man.

The lawyer, Aanand Ghods-Mehtani, sent a letter to Mayor Lindsey Horvath and Council members John D’Amico and Lauren Meister today citing comments by readers of WEHOville about what has come to be called “Deputygate.”

Ian Owens
Ian Owens
“On Friday afternoon, the WEHOville website ran a story on my Thursday letter,” Ghods-Mehtania wrote, referring to an earlier letter from him asking the Council not to act on a proposal by Horvath to reform the system. “I found the tone of most of the reader comments to be disheartening to say the least. For example, a reader urged Mr. Owens ‘to go back to the perfume counter where he worked’ and another referred to him as the ‘Monica Lewinsky of West Hollywood’.”

Ghods-Mehtani cited those comments to support his argument that the effort to reform the deputy system was retribution against Owens for accusing his boss, Councilmember John Duran, of soliciting sex from him. Duran has denied that accusation.

Ghods-Mehtani also said a vote by the Council to adopt Horvath’s proposed reforms would cause “life changing harm” to Ownes and Michelle Rex, the deputy to and former campaign manager for Councilmember D’Amico. Horvath’s proposal effectively would eliminate their jobs. It would replace the highly paid deputies, who each report to an individual Council member, with a group of five staffers reporting to the City Manager. Each staff member would have specific duties, such as managing the Council members’ appointments, drafting legislation for them or meeting with local residents on their behalf.

Owens and Rex are currently the only full time deputies and thus the only members of the deputies’ five-member union, which also has caused controversy for taking stands on issues before the City Council. While D’Amico has said he thinks changes need to be made in the deputy system, he has continued to publicly support Rex, a close friend of Owens who City Hall insiders describe as difficult to work with. Newly elected Councilmember Lauren Meister has continued to support the deputy system. She named her campaign manager, Scott Schmidt, who also is a former Council candidate, as her interim deputy and has said she will consider him for a full-time position. Horvath is working with an interim deputy. And John Heilman, who won re-election on June 2, won’t be sworn into office until tonight. His former deputy, Fran Solomon, has retired.

Ghods-Mehtani also objected to the Council’s voting on the matter until it receives a report from Steve Rodig, a private investigator hired by the city to look into allegations that Owens improperly monitored the conversations of former deputy Fran Solomon. Owens sent out an email under a fake name alleging that Solomon was promoting Heilman’s unsuccessful March re-election campaign by soliciting people on her office telephone to appear in a photo shoot for campaign material.

After WEHOville disclosed Owens as the author of the email, Solomon complained that he was possibly bugging her office, which sparked the city’s investigation into the matter. In response, Owens has sued the city and Duran, alleging retaliation for his complaints about Solomon’s behavior and sexual solicitation by Duran.

The City Council will consider Horvath’s reform proposal at its meeting tonight, which begins at 6:30 p.m. at the City Council Chambers at 625 N. San Vicente Blvd., south of Santa Monica.

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Rudolf Martin
Rudolf Martin
6 years ago

Looks like Mr. Owens is getting bad legal advice, the statements by his lawyer are laughable.

Let’s not forget that this whole mess was made possible by council members hiring their Grindr hookups and getting away with it. Maybe we only have ourselves to blame.

Disco Dan
Disco Dan
6 years ago

I watched the tail end of the meeting at home when they voted to abolish the Deputy system. Even D’Amico voted for it. So Owens and Rex are now unemployed or at least I think so. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

Disco Dan
Disco Dan
6 years ago

I just got back from the City Council meeting and indeed I left before the Deputy system was discussed. But it was very odd to see Owens sitting at a table in the rear of the chambers and Duran on the dais, so to speak. How are these two able to work with one another? Do they even talk to one another? I (and many others) do NOT understand this. Can anyone explain ? And the Council decided to retain lawyers to defend itself and Duran against the suit by Owens. Have we gone down the rabbit hole ?!

Keith Kaplan
Keith Kaplan
6 years ago

Ghods-Mehtani suggests on the one hand that the move to reform our deputy system is a direct act of retribution against his client, Ian Owens. But our city council has chosen to review the matter without the final investigative report on the “Deputygate” issue. So then he goes on to object to the matter being voted on until the investigative report on the issue is filed. Seems like a very desperate and illogical attempt by Ghods-Mehtani.

Brian Holt
Brian Holt
6 years ago

Ugh. I can’t muster the energy for much else. Maybe a barf. And a sigh. And I’ll throw in an inside scream for good measure. Barrrrrrrf!

WehoResident1
WehoResident1
6 years ago

Saying that the possibility of Mr. Owens job being eliminated is a form of retaliation for the lawsuit is complete and utter BS. It’s not HIS job that is being eliminated, but rather the ENTIRE class of the job. That’s different. When the ‘deputy gate’ first came to light, it was an accusation made between Owens and Solomon; plain and simple. It was only later during the investigation that the facts surrounding their compensation packages, duties, lack of oversight, their five person union, and every possible ridiculous component about this situation was exposed that people were demanding immediate change. And… Read more »

Chris Sanger
Chris Sanger
6 years ago

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

(BTW, gay here, like I imagine many of the comment makers referred to in the letter).

Neal Z.
6 years ago

I haven’t seen Ghods-Mehtani’s letter, but is sounds like a bunch of posturing and grandiloquent bloviation. The comments which appeared in the WEHOville story would almost certainly be inadmissible in any court proceeding as unreliable hearsay – even when the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit finally begins its long overdue investigation of Michelle Rex. I happen to like the current deputy system, and I think that it served the City very well for a couple of decades, allowing part-time councilmembers to have a full time staff member to handle day-to-day constituent service, legislative matters, and other management… Read more »

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