EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this story erred in saying that City Councilmember Lindsey Horvath said Mayor John Duran should resign from the City Council. In fact, Horvath said Duran should step down from his position as mayor. The story has been corrected to reflect that.
City Attorney Mike Jenkins on Monday will present to the West Hollywood City Council five actions it can take to respond to demands from residents and activists that John Duran step down as the city’s mayor and resign from the City Council.
The options will be presented at what is expected to be a contentious meeting, given that Duran is expected to attend the meeting. Duran missed the Council’s Feb. 19 meeting because he checked into the hospital to have a blood clot examined. The meeting also is likely to attract some of those who attended the earlier meeting to demand that Duran resign.
The complaints about Duran are based on allegations that he has engaged in sexually inappropriate behavior with young members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, whose board he chairs, and that he exhibited discrimination in his description of one chorus member as a “skinny Korean kid with pimples on his cheek,” in explaining why he didn’t find him sexually attractive. Duran also riled some local residents when, in a recent radio interview, he described himself as the “only sexually active member of the City Council.” Duran has denied the allegations of sexual harassment and apologized for his comments about the young Asian chorus member. He also has resigned his position as chair of the GMCLA board.
In a memo to the Council, Jenkins makes clear that it cannot remove Duran from office. “Under California law, councilmembers answer to their constituents, not to their colleagues,” Jenkins said. “Hence, the law does not expressly address the means by which a City Council may discipline or express disapproval of one of its own and it limits the power of involuntary removal from office to the electorate.”
As previous stories have noted, a petition signed by 20% of West Hollywood’s voters would be required to put a proposal to remove Duran from office on the ballot. That likely would require a special election, and Duran would be removed only if a majority voted to do that.
In his memo, Jenkins lists five actions the City Council can take if it wants to publicly discipline Duran:
1) The Council can remove Duran as mayor. At its last meeting, the Council voted unaniimously to rescind a previous decision to extend Duran’s 12-month term, which expires in May, until September. It had voted to extend the term as part of an effort to realign the city’s elections with the state general election dates.
2) The Council can deny Duran the privilege of traveling on city business with his expenses paid by the city. Jenkins said that Duran already has cancelled all pending city travel. Duran’s city-funded travel has included trips to attend the South by Southwest music and art festival in Austin, Tex., and meetings in various cities of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Education Fund, whose board he has chaired since 2016.
3) The Council can vote to remove Duran from City Council subcommittees. He currently is on the Finance & Budget, Visit West Hollywood, 1343 Laurel Avenue and Christopher Street West/L.A. Pride subcommittees. He also is the Council’s delegate to the League of California Cities, the L.A. County City Selection Committee and the Public Agency Risk-Sharing Authority of California.
4 ) The Council can direct City Hall to deny Duran reimbursements for expenses he incurs in performing his official duties. In 2012 the Public Integrity Division of the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office said it was considering prosecuting Duran for misuse of a city credit card. Its examination found that Duran had used the card to spend more than $7,000 over three years on dozens of meals, sometimes multiple times a week and sometimes at expensive restaurants. The D.A.’s office eventually decided not to move forward with the prosecution.
5) The Council can prepare a resolution censuring Duran for his activities. That resolution must be presented to Duran and he must be given an opportunity to rebut it before the Council can vote on it.
Councilmembers John D’Amico, Lindsey Horvath and Lauren Meister, all running for re-election on March, have declined to take a position on whether Duran should leave the council, however all have asked that he step down as mayor. Only two of the eight challengers – Brendan Hood and Sepi Shyne – have said Duran should resign from the City Council.
The City Council will meet at 6:30 p.m. on Monday in the City Council Chambers, 625 N. San Vicente Blvd. Parking is free with a validated ticket from the five story structure behind the Chambers.