Michelle Rex Seeks Damages for Elimination of Her City Council Deputy Job

Former West Hollywood City Council deputy Michelle Rex has filed a claim with the city for an unspecified amount of damages because of the elimination of her position.

Her lawyer, Anand Ghods-Mehtani, said in a letter to the city that it has “unlawfully retaliated and discriminated against Ms. Rex for her association with Mr. Owens and her truthful support of his claims.” The reference is to Ian Owens, former deputy to Councilmember John Duran, whose distribution under a pseudonym of a document purporting to chronicle improper election campaign phone calls by another deputy led to an investigation and the eventual elimination of the controversial deputy system.

West Hollywood City Council deputies Michelle Rex (left, 2014 compensation $189,583) and Ian Owens (right, 2014 compensation $149,610)

The letter alleges a complicated conspiracy that in some ways reflects the dysfunction of the deputy system. The system was created at the city’s inception in 1984 and allowed each Council member to choose a full time employee who effectively reported to the Council member rather than the city manager, as is the case with other city employees. In recent years deputies have had total annual compensation of as much as $200,000.

In the letter, Ghods-Mehtani alleges that Councilmember John Heilman crafted the proposal by newly elected Mayor Lindsey Horvath to eliminate the system, which was approved in a four-to-one vote on June 15. (It was Councilmember Heilman’s deputy, Fran Solomon, whose alleged phone calls to campaign supporters were listed by Owens in his mass email.) Rex and Owens had a close relationship, but Rex’s relationship with Solomon was fraught, as was the relationship between Councilmember John D’Amico, Rex’s boss, and Councilmember Heilman. “When Mr. Owens blew the whistle on Ms. Solomon, Councilmember Heilman used his influence to protect Ms. Solomon’s position and punish Mr. Owens,” Ghods-Mehtani says in his letter.

Ghods-Mehtani claims that Heilman and Duran should not have been allowed to vote on the proposal to eliminate the deputy system because it was inspired by the incident between Owens and Solomon and because Owens, in a subsequent lawsuit, said that he had been sexually harassed by Duran. Duran has denied that charge.

The City of West Hollywood has been in negotiations with the five-member Council deputy union, which is required by the union’s agreement with the city, on formally disbanding the system. However, Ghods-Mehtani said, “the City has been adamant that there will be no place for Mr. Owens or Ms. Rex once the restructuring has been completed, and the end result of the negotiations will include elimination of Mr. Owens’s and Ms. Rex’s employment.”

“In short, there is convincing evidence that the City has unlawfully retaliated and discriminated against Ms. Rex for her association with Mr. Owens and her truthful support of his claims.”

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ferragosto1
6 years ago

As previously suggested here above, the D.A. needs to launch a complete investigation, no holds barred, including every Council Member past and present, their deputies, and the City Manager & Lawyer — excluding recently first-time-serving Councillor Meister — given the systemic, obviously historic genesis of this long-simmering, suffocating situation. Those involved in this mess live in a very odd moral & intellectual universe, gotten away with over many years by the cover and propagation of the myth of West Hollywood being a “progressive” municipality. Beneath the wallpaper there is rot.

Ty Geltmaker, Ph.D.
West Hollywood

JJ
JJ
6 years ago

I agree with luca d…everyone is a victim. That’s the mentality today.

Greedy bar owners
Greedy bar owners
6 years ago

I blame the City Council AND the greedy staff members who treat the City of W. Hollywood’s treasury as their personal ATM. How vile is it that they make their residents feed the parking meters until midnight so they have enough loot to steal and continue to steal by funding their pensions. I call on each and every one of you to demand action. Write a letter to the district attorney’s office demanding an investigation. The City is so corrupt do not expect anyone at the City level to do anything to clean up this cesspool as Steve Martin correctly… Read more »

Mike
Mike
6 years ago

She didn’t work hard.

Tom Smart
Tom Smart
6 years ago

Totally agree with Rudolf here. The Council and City Manager are to blame for not addressing these issues head-on over the years.

Rudolf Martin
Rudolf Martin
6 years ago

The hatred and jealousy on this comment thread makes me laugh. It is the city’s fault and not the deputies’ fault that they were grossly overpaid and over entitled by being their own union. Blame your council members and blame the city manager, not the people accepting these positions, does anyone suggest the deputies should have asked for a pay cut when the city offered them this salary and benefits? She worked hard and wasn’t hired via Grindr. The city had a contract with these people and knew damn well they’d be asking for compensation when “eliminated” so no surprise… Read more »

luca d
luca d
6 years ago

what a shame, they just don’t go away…
typical, everyone is a victim.

Lynn
Lynn
6 years ago

Ms. Rex would be wise to move on literally and figuaratively. After observation of conditions prior to Ms Rex’s appointment, it is my opinion that she brought the seeds of a potential debacle with her as part of a larger and long running agenda. She was the fuse that connected with a different fire than what was sought resulting in her entanglement. She may be gone but the elements of the situation are still percolating away in new iterations. Folks could well stop beating dead horses deader than dead and seeking recompense.

Flores St.
Flores St.
6 years ago

If the former deputies win any money from the city, the city has no one to blame but itself. They should have followed all procedures necessary in order to ensure this would not come back to bite us in the ass.

Jim Chud
Jim Chud
6 years ago

REALLY? REALLY??? DON’T these people realize that the whole system that had her making, not earning, the outrageous amount – with full benefits I might add, was a big over-compensated problem. Driving a shiny new Lexus doesn’t exactly enhance her image either. If the city was paying for that too, which I guess it was indirectly, I am going to puke. I actually had a good working relationship with Michelle, and I was shocked that she let herself get brought down by the gossip mess. Ya know, the amount of entitlement that so many people in our community posses is… Read more »

Shawn Thompson
6 years ago

For me personally I’m curious as to the sexual harassment claims by Owens, have they been thoroughly investigated and the clear facts found? Also what has never really seen the final facts are was Fran using her city time to fund raise for her boss? I think these are the real facts that need some closure

Pat Dixon
Pat Dixon
6 years ago

I miss Fran Solomon and don’t see that was she is being accused of was so terrible.

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