Michelle Rex Lawsuit Against WeHo Goes to Trial Monday

deputygate, west hollywood city council,
Former West Hollywood City Council deputies Michelle Rex (left) and Ian Owens.

UPDATE: The Rex vs. City of West Hollywood trial has been postponed to Wednesday according to a courthouse worker.

Former WeHo City Council Deputy Michelle Rex’s lawsuit against the City of West Hollywood is set to go to trial Monday morning, resurrecting a scandal that got media attention nationwide and came to be called “Deputygate.”

The trial is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. at L.A. County’s Civic Center courthouse in downtown L.A. Rex has requested that it be heard by a jury, whose selection likely will consume at least the first day of the trial.

Rex, the former campaign manager and deputy for Councilmember John D’Amico, filed a lawsuit against the city last year, alleging that she was fired from her position in retaliation for her testimony in support of Ian Owens and his allegation that another deputy, Fran Solomon, solicited donations for the election campaign of her boss, Councilmember John Heilman, while at work. Owens, the deputy to Councilmember John Duran, sued the city and Duran in 2015 alleging sexual harassment by Duran and that he was fired by the city for exposing corrupt behavior by a fellow deputy. The city settled the case by paying Owens $500,000.

In her suit, Rex also alleges that when the City Council abolished the controversial deputy system she should have been offered another job at City Hall. She is asking for an unspecified amount in damages for “emotional distress” and to pay the fees of her attorney, Aanand Mehtani, who represented Owens in his suit.

The city and Duran denied Owens’ allegations but settled his lawsuit under pressure from its insurance provider. Mandatory negotiations have taken place between lawyers representing the city and Rex, and the city’s decision to proceed with the Rex trial is an indication that the parties couldn’t reach a settlement.

The lawsuit contains statements by Rex’s lawyer that suggest that some of the most controversial alleged behaviors at City Hall will be dug up again and presented to the jurors. For example, it repeats Owens’ contention that John Duran hired him after meeting him on Grindr, the gay hookup app, and having sex with him and that Duran continued to sexually harassment after Owens took the job. Duran has conceded that he met Owens on Grindr and had sex with him but he denies that he harassed him while Owens was employed at City Hall.

The lawsuit also contends that Solomon solicited donations from real estate developers to the West Hollywood Community Housing Corporation, the non-profit that builds housing for low-income and disabled people in WeHo. And it contends that Duran saw his position as acity council member as a way to solicit donations to the Gay Men’s Chorus, a non-profit whose board he chairs.

“A review of the list of donors to the Housing Corporation and the Gay Men’s Chorus paints a picture of excessive — almost cartoonish and unbelievable — quid pro quo corruption within the City of West Hollywood,” the lawsuit states.

The suits by Rex and Owens, who were known as friends at City Hall, came after the decision by the City Council in June of 2015 to eliminate the five-member deputy system. The system had long been seen as flawed by City Hall insiders and was unparalleled in California cities of a similar organization and size. Its dysfunction became public in 2015 when WEHOville revealed that Ian Owens was the author of an email message sent under a fake name alleging that Fran Solomon was using her office phone to promote Heilman’s re-election campaign. Owens was suspended while the city investigated the matter. Solomon, who complained that her conversations were being improperly monitored, also filed a claim against the city alleging that she was the victim of bullying, harassment, intimidation and defamation by D’Amico, Rex and Owens. Solomon retired after Heilman’s defeat in the March 2015 Council election. Heilman rejoined the Council after winning a seat in the June special election.

The revelations about Owens and Solomon brought forth other accusations of animosity between Rex and Solomon that reflected the then-contentious relationship between their bosses, D’Amico and Heilman. (The two apparently have repaired that relationship, with D’Amico endorsing Heilman in this year’s City Council election). Also revealed was the fact that some deputies arrived at work late and left early, interfered in the work of other city employees and weren’t responsive to the needs of local residents, a key part of their well-paid jobs. Some West Hollywood residents became particularly upset about the compensation of the deputies. The 2014 salary and benefits of Owens totaled about $150,000 while that of Rex totaled about $190,000.

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Opportunistic.
Opportunistic.
4 years ago

Wonder if any of the inner sanctum constituents will be testifying for Ms. Rex
Will the Itish bookies be there or anyone selling tickets?

Randy
Randy
4 years ago

… or maybe the court system’s first result (today, May 3rd) is inclusive of the trial commencing and continuing from here onward?

5/3/2017 at 9:30 AM in department 68 at 111 North Hill Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Jury Trial

Randy
Randy
4 years ago

So what happened today, besides jury selection? I searched the case calendar for this case number (BC615534), and the next date reads as follows: 6/1/2017 at 8:32 AM in department 68 at 111 North Hill Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012 Motion for an Order — Does this mean the trial has been continued until June 1st? It would be great if WehoVille could cover this trial on a daily basis, if you have the resources. This is the first trial against the city that has gone to court for as far back as I can remember. I am still expecting… Read more »

Jim Nasium
Jim Nasium
4 years ago

Wait a second, I’m on jury duty Wednesday!

Larry Block
Larry Block
4 years ago

Trial going on.. where is the update. Any “Breaking News?” Is James Mills our Andrea Mitchell?

A Concerned Citizen
A Concerned Citizen
4 years ago

Josh (and Cynthia), I agree with Josh’s opinion here. Cynthia, you might disagree that the deputy system should have been eliminated. You might even be correct about it being illegal (I’m not educated on this topic). But to believe in the story that the elimination of this system was retaliation against Michelle Rex is completely absurd. There was all kinds of drama going on in City Hall. I don’t know who to believe, or who is to blame for what. But it seems as though the system was dysfunctional. Dissolution of it was proposed by Lindsey Horvath, if I remember… Read more »

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
4 years ago

Unfortunately, what Ian Owens alleged proved to be true; Fran Solomon was campaigning for her boss from City Hall, on City time and on the tax payer dime. That seems pretty dysfunctional to me but it is more a reflection of the entitled mentality of the Council members as anything else.

Cynthia Blat
Cynthia Blat
4 years ago

The elimination of the council deputy system consisted of the summary dissolution of a Union Bargaining Unit. As such the action itself was illegal. As a current member of the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE), Local 1450, I was stunned by this blatant act of union busting, and as a former union steward, had this been attempted in my union I would have fought it tooth and nail, regardless of the excuses for attempting such an action. There was no warning, there was no progressive discipline, there was no respect for all unions everywhere and it was, in my… Read more »

Opportunistic Behavior
Opportunistic Behavior
4 years ago

Some like to endlessly defend the bad actors because they were part of the pod. Yes, Mr. Duran had several indiscretions but on balance he also has much to offer. One can always argue your point with him. I believe there was no” there”…. there in the credit card dust up. Others are simply closed minded to an audience other than their own. When deputies were hired to interface with the public it meant ALL of the public.

Jenny
Jenny
4 years ago

Every day she fails to settle she lessens her chances of a win. She has a duty to mitigate her damages. D’Amico praised her as she exited. So, she was really can’t get a job? Call her doctor to the stand. Emotional distres–beh!

Shawn Thompson
4 years ago

I love the pivot by some in this thread from Duran’s HR mess and Fran’s fundraising at city hall. Those were the facts. And When I reached out to Rex my issues were addressed quickly BTW. Some have spun that the $500,000 paid to Owens was no big deal because in came out of an insurance pool. But the ball that Duran set in motion continues to cost the city money, those are the facts. Everyone is allowed their day in court, lets have some transparency on what the facts are. Past all the speculation and the heavy spin of… Read more »

Opportunistic Behavior
Opportunistic Behavior
4 years ago

Should the citizens at large present a laundry list of indiscretions exhibited by Rex in her marginalization of those outside of her private echo chamber? Should D’Amico sue Rex for making him a laughing stock in a trumped up tiff with John Heilman? Think of it, the possibilities are endless.

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