Some West Hollywood City Council members have been traveling far and wide (and frequently) according to WEHOville’s latest analysis of travel spending by local politicians.
Data from May 31, 2018, to Oct. 31, 2019, shows City Council members spent a total of $32,378 on travel-related expenses to events such as the annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Tex., the Venice Biennale art show in Italy, and more pedestrian events such as the Southern California Association of Governments meeting in Palm Desert.
That works out to an average of $1,839 a month, however, some Council members did much more travel than others. The top spender was Lindsey Horvath, whose $16,269 in travel expenses to a total of 11 destinations constituted 50% of the total.
Horvath’s farthest trip was to a conference about the use of digital media in city governments that was held in Paris. The Conference was hosted by the mayor of Paris and organized by MossLabs.io of Baltimore. MossLabs’ Justine Fenwick, who is active in California political circles, sent the invitations. After an editorial in WEHOville questioning the city’s funding of such overseas trips, Horvath agreed to pay for her own flight. However, city records show that City Hall did pay $943 for her Paris hotel room and a little over $100 for related travel expenses.
Horvath’s other destinations included Sacramento ($2,720 for League of California Cities meetings), Washington, D.C. ($2,250 for National League of Cities meetings), Rancho Mirage ($1,177 for a League of California Cities meeting). Indian Wells ($1,611 for a California Contract Cities meeting), Minneapolis, Minn. ($1,138 for the Local Progress association meeting), Coronado ($799 for a California Contract Cities Association meeting), Pacific Grove ($768 for a California Community Choice Association conference), Long Beach ($658 for a League of California Cities conference), Atlanta, Ga. ($612 for the NLC Women in Municipal Government meeting), Bridgeport, Conn. ($506 for a National League of Cities Women in Government conference), and Indianapolis, Ind. ($402 for a National League of Cities meeting).
The second biggest spender was Mayor John D’Amico, whose $9,408 in travel expenses made up 29% of the total. D’Amico’s farthest destination was Heidelberg, Germany, for International Conference on Climate Action, followed by a stop in Venice, Italy, to attend the Venice Biennale art show. The organizers of the Heidelberg event paid his travel and hotel expenses and D’Amico said he would pay for his flight to the art show in Venice. However, the City of West Hollywood incurred $1,100 in expenses related to the climate conference and art show visit.
D’Amico’s other destinations included San Francisco ($1,809 for the Global Climate Action Summit), Honolulu, the capital of his home state of Hawaii ($1,806 for a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors), Boston ($1,497 for an Urban Land Institute meeting), and Washington, DC ($496 for a meeting of the LGBT Victory Fund, a gay lobbying group).
City Councilmember John Heilman spent $3,898 (12% of the total spending). Heilman traveled to Washington, DC ($3,262 for the LGBT Victory Fund conference, the National League of Cities conference, and a Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce event, and Long Beach for the League of California Cities annual meeting.)
Councilmember John Duran traveled to three destinations, spending a total of $2,523, which is 8% of the overall spending by Council members during the period analyzed by WEHOville. Duran’s travel came to a halt in March when the City Council voted to deny him the right to travel on city business at city expense for one year. That vote was part of the Council’s response to Duran’s controversial public comments about allegations of sexual misbehavior by him. None of his city-funded trips were to events associated with West Hollywood government or local issues.
Duran traveled to Washington, DC ($2,202 to attend a conference of the LGBT Victory Fund), Phoenix ($193 to attend a conference of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials), and Austin, Tex. ($409, with a refund of $282, to attend South by Southwest, the annual film and music event.) The refund was for his airline ticket to Austin, a trip Duran didn’t make because he was ill.
Councilmember Lauren Meister’s travel spending totaled $280, just under one percent of the total spending by City Council members. That money was spent on a trip to Palm Desert to attend the Southern California Association of Governments meeting.
The city reimburses Council members for their travel to attend meetings and events on a standing list approved by the Council. In addition to city government-related meetings such as those of the Southern California Association of Governments and the California Contract Cities Association, it includes events and destinations that align with specific Council members’ political interests (e.g. the LGBTQ Victory Fund and the National Association of Latino Elected Officials), issues they have a passion about but have little local significance (the Global Climate Action Summit, the International Conference on Climate Action), and entertainment destinations such as the Venice Biennale in Italy and the South by Southwest music and film festival in Austin, Tex.
CORRECTIONS: An earlier version of this story may have implied that Lindsey Horvath billed the City of West Hollywood for her hotel stay in Paris and incidental travel expenses after the Council decided not to fund that trip. The City Council had agreed to pay for her airfare if she paid the other costs. Also, John Duran did not cancel his trip to Austin, Tex. for the South by Southwest music and film festival because he had been banned by the City Council for traveling at the city’s expense. Duran canceled because of an illness. The ban took place later.
You forgot to mention on one of these trips to Washington DC, John Duran tried to hook up with the spouse of a City employee. After learning who he was texting, he suggested that his spouse didn’t need to know. While there was more to the story, we still don’t know the cost of this episode to the City. But it does make you wonder why we would ever want this guy to represent the City at any conference or to travel on the tax payers’ dime. The City manager should not approve any future travel for Duran due to… Read more »
Steve, you are an intelligent, educated, experienced guy and I would vote for you, but you seem to have a very personal issue with John Duran. I worked for an Attorney when I was in College. Two things he said to me which I will never forget: 1. “Never allow emotions to influence your comments or actions” 2. “Never let them know what you know”. There are enough people who don’t like John (he most likely will not win), you don’t have to be the anti-john. Talk more about what you would do for the Residents of West Hollywood as… Read more »
I disagree, Eric Jon Schmidt. Steve Martin is in a unique position to know and to have information that needs to be shared. I applaud him for it.
That might be true, but the excessive and wasteful travel is not limited to John Duran. It appears that most if not all City Council Members are afflicted with the inability to restrain themselves when it comes to taking full advantage of all the perks that the position provides. So, it is not fair to single one Council Member, especially when he is up for re-election. It’s dirty politics. There needs to be a limit for all Councilmembers travel and other spending, that would solve the problem.
I do. I worked for decades to secure the rights of the LGBT community and to make West Hollywood a better place to live. I have known John Duran for close to 30 years and unlike many people I have actually worked with him on issues prior to either of us being on the City Council. I do have an issue with him.
Having said that, your comments are helpful and well intended
Mostly agree, Steve, but let’s not forget that the spouse of the city employee was on Grindr where the interaction apparently primarily took place. Grindr, despite recent attempts to repurpose as a lifestyle site, is still ostensibly a place where people go to hookup. Attempts to change the narrative on that encounter are disingenuous. The spouse was not some victim sitting at a tea counter.
Thank you. Indeed, people on Grindr are there fore one thing, for the most part. And just because he was on a city trip does not mean that he was on the clock 24/7, just like it wouldn’t mean that at home. What he does, on his personal time, is his business, no matter how much I like or do not like the man.
Steve Martin has sour grapes against Duran, having been defeated by him in one or more election. He has since become his watchdog, letting emotion overcome critical thinking.
Totally agree with Steve Martin. John Duran is a major liability to West Hollywood’s reputation. He’s also a future economic liability. Just recall Duran using Grindr as an employment hook-up agency, costing the city $500,000, and I’m sure increased insurance premiums. Duran has major personal tax problems with over $100,000 in Federal tax liens. Elected officials not paying taxes on time makes them vulnerable to bribes. This kind of issue is one thing that prompts the FBI to begin an investigation of an elected official. With so many “Pay to play” actions going on in West Hollywood, why aren’t the… Read more »
Duran made a huge mistake by not reporting to HR about his hire. No question. Truly unprofessional. But that one incident hardly classifies as a designation of making “an employment hook-up agency,” and it did NOT cost the city $500K (that was covered by insurance). I’m sure insurance premiums went up, as a result. I’m not defending his actions, but I am concerned about people accurately reporting the truth. He did cost the city its reputation, for sure. That will live on for a long time, and he should resign, but he’s already filed for re-election.
Most of these trips are boondoggles, pure and simple, meant to burnish the images of incumbents through self-congratulatory and useless organizations. The awards many of these organizations sponsor are laughable. These are gatherings of politically incestuous individuals who rub each others backs. Think locally and regionally first, and remember the needs of the city. There is zero reason why any councilmember should use public funds to travel to NALEO or Victory Fund, or any other affinity groups. The trips to Europe and Hawaii are particularly egregious and exhibit vile contempt for their office, and gross dereliction of good judgment. There… Read more »
Why is this an issue? This is less than $1/resident, and a drop in the bucket when compared to the city budget. For a city with such a high profile, I find this expense quite reasonable. This is especially true given our city’s dependence on tourism as this is an extremely cheap way to keep our city in the minds of those around the world. If anything, I think the city is getting tremendous value for the money. Remember, consumer travel is FAR cheaper than business travel. This article should at least compare these expenses to those of other cities… Read more »
It’s a little thing called ETHICS!
They weren’t elected to run around the country on the tax payer’s dime, especially when we have massive social issues boiling at home!
There’s nothing unethical about public officials using public funds to cover costs associated with their official duties. We might disagree on what their “official duties” are or should be, but that doesn’t warrant questioning their ethics.
Josh, and Zam, I agree with you. These costs are a drop in the bucket. Let’s also remember how much of the City’s revenue comes from TOT tax from tourists, and sales tax from visitors, who inflate the City’s population by a factor of 3 each weekend. i.e., residents aren’t paying much of the cost of any of this. Compare these to how much companies spend in the private space, such as Google, Apple, Netflix, etc.. $32K, total? For five people? I know a person who works for just one of these private companies whose personal travel budget exceeds this,… Read more »
Lindsay Horvath is on the Move! A new video. Bringing in those sky milage points. The first lady of WEHO. Grandstanding everywhere! Put in office by developers. A proud member of the Townscape Three. Every council meeting she announces where’s she’s been. From Paris Animals In Transition to Las Vegas Millennial Politicians Against Cement Sidewalks to Save Gay Termites from Extinction. She is as big a joke as John Duran going to the Austin Film Festival. Talk about corruption. Where’s the FBI?
I dint think so. the truth means nothing
West Hollywood needs a ZERO travel budget outside of the state of California!
Our entire city operating charter needs to be redone from top to bottom!
This is SCAM travel for fun paid for by HIGH taxes and relentless parking fee hacks. This little city with the BIG ego can’t even provide basic services like safe streets (costs too much to have our own dedicated PD- so the line goes). Costs too much because that would cut into “travel for fun” costs and huge payouts for city council perv behavior. This city is MORE than gay gay gay…(and I am gay). This is business, not a gay nightclub. Our city charter needs updating to contain some of the egregious actions that have taken place by city… Read more »
Aren’t the travelers required to submit reports regarding their activities at these event?
Where do we go to find out what went on at the meetings? Well, they really must like travelking by air, now worse than “fourth class rail in Bulgaria” – according to Robert Benchley.
Meister is the only decent person on the board. The rest are not serious people.
In all fairness, WeHo’s 35,000 population probably doesn’t represent your average 35,000 person city–both in terms of it’s uniqueness and how government thinks. Some of these trips are completely understandable and some are likely outgrowth of an oversized operating budget.
So David, we charge too much in taxes and parking fines to get that oversized operating budget that our City Council members use to fly around the country and overseas? Hmmm. What else are they using it for?
Paying for John Duran’s bad behavior.
Why are we, the Residents so stupid to allow this? There is no reason for any City Council Member to travel out of the State. There are many issues which are neglected while the City Council Members fly all over the World. Either we the Voters are just plain stupid or the City Council Members are Sociopathic and have no concern for the needs and issues of the Residents. People call Trump a sociopath, I believe that many if not most of our City leadership is the same. I challenge any one of the fab five to look into the… Read more »
You are 100% correct. The FBI needs to do an investigation in the city council and prosecute to the fullest. When developers say they are demolishing buildings and are going to house low income it is BS. The the loophole is they can just pay a fine to not house these people. This is all due to greed and payoff by the developers. Those in the city are absolutely clueless on the proper procedures or they just don’t care. What baffles me is if you have someone like the former mayor John being accused off all these accusations why don’t… Read more »
The FBI needs a reason to investigate. While I’ve neither seen nor heard any reason for the FBI to investigate, if you feel so strongly, you should share your concerns with the FBI directly at (310) 477-6565.
Makes sense that the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem would do the most amount of traveling representing the city. They are also working extra hard to make up for one council member who is banned from traveling and doing nothing.
So Larry, you’ve dropped the Think Local slogan for your City Council campaign? Are you gonna use Think International? Do you really think people elected to pay attention to city issues should be flying around the world and the country to events that have nothing to do with us, with us paying for it? Hoping Sepi Shyne picks up the Think Local slogan. I think she’s the only one who would stand by it given that you won’t
Sounds like ur looking for something to rail on without any details. The travel budget here is minimal. Notice that there were not any figures from past years. If you are sure this does not have anything to do with city business then please explain the process for city officials to request a trip- get it approved/ and which ones are offered to all but accepted by only one— the league of city meetings- for example are one trip — somebody should represent West Hollywood don’t ya think !
But why are our City Council members going to Germany, Italy, France, Texas, Connecticut, and on and on? This is a small town with plenty of problems. They should be walking the streets and talking to local residents about them. Now I understand why I only see one of the Council members on the sidewalk ever. So again, “Think Local” isn’t going to be your campaign slogan I guess. I hope someone else picks it up and runs with it.
Thank you but my slogan has nothing to do with putting blinders on to the rest of the world and our interaction to it. There are many ideas that we bring home by sharing with other mayors or business people and it works two ways- we host people too. There its travel that is part of the job and makes up the majority of the travel budget. I’ve got a local shop but the trade shows are not in LA so I got to travel to bring ideas home. That’s the way it goes if ur in the learning- growing… Read more »
Banned and should be REMOVED!!!!!