Day Ten: Lawyers Make Closing Arguments In Rex vs. City of WeHo

l.a. county superior court
Stanley Mosk Courthouse, Los Angeles

Lawyers for the City of West Hollywood and for former City Council deputy Michelle Rex made their closing arguments to the jury today, leaving both sides tense in anticipation of its final decision in a lawsuit that has resurrected allegations of electioneering in City Hall and misbehavior by city employees and a City Council member.

The key question before the jury is whether the City Council’s decision to eliminate the 30-year-old deputy system was done in retaliation for Rex’s testimony in defense of her friend and fellow deputy, Ian Owens.

The controversy known as “Deputygate,” which sparked the City Council’s decision to eliminate the deputy system, came after WEHOville revealed in January 2015 that Owens had been listening to telephone conversations by deputy Fran Solomon. Owens sent an email under a fake name to various news media, the L.A. County District Attorney and the state Fair Political Practices Commission, alleging Solomon was illegally electioneering from her city office. In a lawsuit that he filed against the city after the deputy system was eliminated, Owens also alleged that he had been sexually harassed by his boss, Councilmember John Duran.

In his statement to the jury, Mark Quigley, Rex’s attorney, argued that Rex got “swept up” in the controversy when Owens “blew the lid off the City of West Hollywood” with his allegations about Solomon.

As examples of the city’s attempt to retaliate against Rex, Quigley cited the city’s decision to put Owens  on paid leave while a private investigator looked into Solomon’s allegations that Owens was spying on her. That investigation by Steve Rodig expanded into whether or not Solomon was improperly campaigning for her boss, John Heilman, and whether Duran had sexually harassed Owens. Both were subjects about which Rex testified to Rodig.

“That gives them the motivation and the animus to get rid of Ian Owens and Michelle Rex because they know that they have testified badly about John Duran,” Quigley said, referring to Rodig’s interviews with those deputies.

Quigely said City Manager Paul Arevalo also was motivated to push for eliminating the system because of the negative publicity and public outrage associated with Deputygate.

Quigley also argued that the city’s failure to offer Rex another job at City Hall, and particularly one in the pool of support staff that replaced the deputy system, was more evidence of that retaliation was its motive for ending the deputy system.

Jill Williams, an attorney representing the city, said 10 days of testimony by various witnesses and a review by the jury of tapes of City Council meetings made clear that the council was intent on eliminating the system regardless of what Rex said to Rodig.

She noted testimony by Councilmembers John D’Amico and Lindsey Horvath that problems with the deputy system were an issue raised by voters in the 2015 City Council election.

“To buy into the story spun by Ms. Rex that the whole system was eliminated that she wasn’t able to get a job at the City of West Hollywood requires us to believe that a … conspiracy took place in the City of West Hollywood — involving other deputies, HR, the city manager, Mike Jenkins (the city attorney), every City Council member who voted to eliminate the program. Finally, the conspiracy would include the people of the City of West Hollywood because they voted for the council members who decided to end the program.”

As further evidence that the city wasn’t retaliating against Rex, Williams noted that when the City Council voted in June 2015 to eliminate the deputy system its members had not received the private investigator’s report and had no knowledge of the allegations by Rex said she said prompted retaliation. Rex acknowledged in her trial testimony that she hadn’t reported concerns about Solomon campaigning or about Duran sexually harassing Owens to the city’s human resources officers or other city officials.

Williams also noted that Rex had failed for many months after her deputy position was eliminated at the end of 2015 to file a required application to be placed on a list of former city employees to be given priority consideration for new job openings. It wasn’t until July 1, 2016, that Rex finally returned her application, which she failed to sign.

The jury will resume deliberations tomorrow morning. Rex is rumored to be seeking compensation for emotional and physical damage and lost wages of $3 million. However Quigley said he would leave to the jury the decision of how much to award Rex for emotional distress, which Rex had said caused her sleeplessness, depression, anxiety, vomiting and nightmares.

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voolavex
4 years ago

Does anyone know if the city offered a settlement before the dirty laundry got hung out to air?

90069
90069
4 years ago

Spoiler Alert: Rex lost – BYE GIRL!

Jimmy Palmieri
4 years ago

and Rex loses.

Jessica Mitford
4 years ago

WEHOville… thanks so much for the excellent “not fake news” reporting. Incredible journalism without editorializing. And Larry Blocks columnist like comments have been fun to read. I’m proposing he takes the title of Mr. WEHO since he is always grandstanding for City Hall. He laboriously touts the brilliance of overpaid managers and virtues of political hacks. Like our new Teflon mayor and vice-mayor whose only talents seem to be lasting longer in office and running a city machine the great St. Louis political boss Tom Pendergast. When you think of gay panache, style and the elements of a so-called “Creative… Read more »

Chris Sanger
Chris Sanger
4 years ago

So it’s clear – per my understanding the plaintiff needs to only get 9 of 12 votes to prevail in a civil case. Also IIRC they also if she prevails set the amount she receives. I know the all opposition all the time council majority haters led by Steve Martin want Rex to win. But if she does it will be a victory for homophobia, since her case more than anything as presented is she deserves to be rewarded for having worked in a place where gays and gay behavior are considered the same as straight one. Her case heavily… Read more »

Larry Block
Larry Block
4 years ago

Day 10: Rex vs. City of West Hollywood Full house to witness closing arguments. West Hollywood’s asst city manager David Wilson and city attorney Mike Jenkins also attended with a number of lawyers staffs.. Rex attorney Quigley was first up and took a long time nomancing every step of every decision made by the city. Insurance company attorney Jill Williams, a young 30ish quite beautiful blonde haired attorney gave our closing arguments. Jill refuted all the heresay connections and became animated presenting a very thorough rebuttal. Quigley had the last word and between his twitching and connecting something to nothing… Read more »

Todd Bianco
4 years ago

These “blow-by-blow” updates have been very instructive about the inner-workings of City Hall. I doubt Ms.Rex will find a sympathetic jury given the testimony presented and how it was reported here.

guyprivaton
4 years ago

Thanks for posting these updates!

fine7760
4 years ago

Ms. Rex is clearly upset because her over paid, kick back job was eliminated and she has been forced to go out and get a real job with regular hours paying what she is truly worth which is ten of thousands less of what West Hollywood was paying her.

Nir Zilberman
Nir Zilberman
4 years ago

I can not wait for the next lawsuit…it’s like a reality show. Perfect for WEHO. A sad show but it’s the facts I know so many employees that can not wait to live city hall, this is not how employees should feel. So sad. Our mangers need to start respecting those who do they job and make them look good. But again, When you Change Nothing , Nothing Change. The same OLD STORY.

Randy
Randy
4 years ago

I will be shocked if she wins this lawsuit, based on all of the reporting here at Wehoville. I always thought her premise was weak, and hard to prove. Public sentiment was against the deputy system, and her own boss voted to eliminate it. For her to get the jury to believe that this was just a vendetta against her and Owens is quite a stretch. They have also made some valid points in that she didn’t apply for another job at City Hall.

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