Dalila Ali Rajah
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West Hollywood Mayor John Duran Accused of Sexual Harassment

John Duran

John Duran, the mayor of West Hollywood, has been accused of sexual harassment and misconduct.

Three former and current members of the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles have come forward with allegations to the Los Angeles Times of inappropriate touching and remarks. 

Amid these accusations, Duran — the chairman of GMCLA's board and a major fundraiser — announced he will resign from his position at the end of the choir's 40th performance season, its members learned Monday. He was with GMCLA for 20 years.

Duran denied any wrongdoing to the Times and claimed that these reports were not his reason for departing. But he said the "toxic" culture sparked by the "false allegations" did factor into his decision-making.

Accusers Brian Phillip Nichoalds and Jason Tong both claimed to the L.A. Times that Duran slipped his hand into their pants. Joey Firoben alleged Duran made inappropriate comments and said another member of the choir groped him several times during a dress rehearsal. 

All three said they reported the incidents to the chorus' membership committee, which handles such claims, but alleged no (or inadequate) action was taken. Tong told the L.A. Times that GMCLA leaders "supported somebody who wielded power, rather than somebody who is vulnerable and needs community."

An investigator had looked into Tong's claims against Duran, but found no evidence to back them. Jonathan Weedman, GMCLA's executive director, said that was the only accusation against Duran of which he had been aware.

In light of the reports, Weedman announced that the chorus will undergo sexual harassment training, which he called "a bit overdue." Choir members — at present, there are over 200 — are volunteers who reportedly vary in how they view the organization, with some treating it as a social club and others as a nonprofit with a serious mission. Founded in 1979, GMCLA organizes concerts and has a number of outreach programs, including Alive Music Project and a partnership with Los Angeles public schools.

Wehoville, a West Hollywood outlet, reported last week that Weedman was accused of forcing oral sex on a young man. Weedman denied the allegation and an investigator could not substantiate the claim. Earlier exchanges between chorus members obtained by Wehoville showed that members were unhappy with leadership and were planning to force the resignation of Weedman and Duran.

In 2016, a former aide of Duran's sued the gay politician — at the time, Duran was a member of the West Hollywood City Council, which rotates the mayoral role — and the city over a claim of sexual harassment. West Hollywood paid the aide a settlement of $500,000, but neither the city nor Duran admitted wrongdoing.

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