West Hollywood Mayor John Duran will see his term limit shortened to one year amid new accusations of sexual harassment — this time from three members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles.
As City News reported, Duran was accused of sexual improprieties against a former aide in 2015. The city paid $500,000 to settle that case, but accusations of inappropriate behavior by Duran continued. One councilman accused him of seeking out sexual partners on the gay dating app Grindr during City Council meetings. In October, the city’s events coordinator filed a formal complaint with the human resources department about Duran. Then the three Gay Men’s Chorus members came forward to accuse him of inappropriate touching and lewd statements.
Three members of the City Council — Lindsey Horvath, Lauren Meister and John D’Amico — called on Duran to resign. The vice chair of the city’s Public Safety Commission stepped down in protest. Still, Duran refused to go.
“If somebody expresses himself or herself sexually, that doesn’t make it harassment, per se,” said Duran (Los Angeles Times). “People are thinking that anything sexual is harassment because somebody feels it is unwelcome, but you have to open your mouth and say, ‘No, I don’t want this.’ … Otherwise, how are any of us able to navigate the sexual politics of 2019? I just think there are bigger, more complex issues at play, that everyone needs to take a timeout and slow down. It can’t be accusation equals guilt.”
Of one of his accusers, Duran told the WeHo Times, “I looked him up on Facebook and of course, he’s a skinny Korean kid with pimples on his cheek. … Look at this guy. It’s just not happening. It’s not credible.”
That comment was slammed as racist victim-shaming.
West Hollywood’s city attorney advised the council that state law does not allow them to force Duran’s ouster. Frustrated, they did the only thing they could do Tuesday by limiting his term to one year. That means Duran will lose his mayoral title and go back to being a city councilman in April.
Allegations of sexual misconduct aren’t the only issues dogging Mayor Duran. A number of residents and activists have also expressed concerns about his close ties to wealthy Democratic donor Ed Buck. Two black men have died in Buck’s West Hollywood apartment under suspicious circumstances within the past two years.