WeHo May Contract with LA County for Investigating Discrimination and Harassment

The City of West Hollywood will consider contracting with Los Angeles County to provide means for city employees to file complaints of discrimination or harassment and to have those complaints investigated.

L.A. County has established a County Equity Investigations Unit that looks into complaints of discrimination and harassment and, if warranted, sends them to the County Equity Oversight Panel, an independent group of employment law experts, which recommends actions for the county to take.

The proposal, brought forth by Mayor John D’Amico and City Councilmember Lindsey Horvath, will be on the West Hollywood City Council’s Monday meeting agenda. It comes after the city has struggled to deal with allegations of improper behavior by City Councilmember John Duran.  A city employee, Mike Gerle, who has been placed on administrative leave, filed a complaint about a public and sexual comment that Duran made to a photographer at a city event in West Hollywood Park. 

Duran also has been the subject of complaints of inappropriate sexual comments or actions by several young members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, a non-profit organization whose board he once chaired. While GMCLA is not associated with the city, Duran’s response to those complaints included comments about the sex lives of his fellow City Council members that some found offensive. The Council has responded by censuring him and barring him from travelling at the city’s expense. It also requires that his official email messages be reviewed by a city official and that he not be allowed to meet one on  one with a city employee unless a city official is present.

Duran also was the subject of a law suit filed in 2015 by Ian Owens, his City Council deputy, who alleged sexual misconduct. Duran has denied all allegations against him.  However, the city settled the Ian Owens lawsuit with a payment of $500,000 to the plaintiff.

The Los Angeles County policy of equity “is intended to preserve the dignity and professionalism of the workplace as well as protect the right of employees to be free from discrimination, sexual harassment, unlawful harassment (other than sexual), retaliation, and inappropriate conduct toward others based on a protected status,” says a memo to the Council about the proposal. “Protected classifications include age; ancestry; color; ethnicity; religious creed; denial of family and medical care leave; disability; marital status; medical condition; national origin; race; sex; gender; gender identity; gender expression; sexual orientation; and any other characteristic protected by state or federal law.”

West Hollywood currently has an internal review process for harassment and discrimination complaints. The city’s Harassment Discrimination and Retaliation Prevention Policy and Complaint Procedure   applies to city employees and applicants for employment, temporary employees, volunteers, interns, city elected officials, and members of city commissions and boards.

The proposed contract with Los Angeles County will provide an additional level of assurance that evaluations and investigations of complaints are done independent of the investigators work at or with City Hall.

The City Council will meet at 6:30 p.m. on Monday at the City Council Chambers, 625 N. San Vicente Blvd., south of Santa Monica.  Parking is free in the five-story structure behind the Council Chambers with a ticket validated in the lobby.

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3 years ago

Before LA County helps another city in regard to discrimination and harassment, it needs to take a look at how they handle issues inhouse. As a county employee, I can tell you first hand that the county does not have an effective CPOE program. Managers with complaints against them are shielded and allowed to misuse their power and retaliate against employees that makes claims. Ask LA County what they do about employees who violate its CPOE program? They move them to a corner and continue to pay their six figure salaries.

3 years ago

This sounds like a good move. Warranted or not, there is a lack of trust in our City government from a lot of people in situations like this. It doesn’t help, when the Gay Men’s Chorus decides to use the same “independent investigator” that the City used for the Owen’s affair, which mostly exonerated Duran. They might have correctly exonerated Duran, but a situation like that will make people think, possibly correctly, that there was bias on the part of the investigator.

3 years ago
Reply to  Randy

didn’t know that. wow. so, if there’s a lack of trust… if there’s suspicions about the way things are covered up or done… how can real investigators be brought in? what would it take? seems like if you’re paying taxes in a city, you should be entitled to know what’s in the files at that city. naive of me?

3 years ago

This is fine as long as actions are actually taken. I’ve read about too many cities where illegal/unethical acts are just covered up so those at the top get to keep their sweet setup. Cities should also provide ways employees can confidentially report payoffs, incompetence, bullying, and all other kinds of weasellyness.

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