Three members of the West Hollywood City Council have asked the city's mayor to step down in the midst of sexual assault allegations that have sparked a public-relations nightmare.
Lindsey Horvath, John D’Amico, and Lauren Meister posted statements on their Facebook accounts Tuesday with the demand to Mayor John Duran, who has been accused by multiple men from the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles of sexual harassment.
The Los Angeles Times published a February 5 report on the allegations, which include claims that the politician made inappropriate remarks and put his hand down two men's waistbands. Following the accusations, Duran admitted no wrongdoing but said he would be leaving his post as the chairman of GMCLA's board.
Many national outlets picked up the story and noted in their reporting how, in 2016, a former aide of Duran's sued the gay politician 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.
Robert Oliver, a public safety commissioner in West Hollywood, resigned in response to the new allegations. He demanded Duran's resignation and said he was "astounded" by the silence of his colleagues at a Monday meeting. “I have been honored to serve on this commission with you … but I cannot continue to serve on a commission that stays silent on issues of such importance,” Oliver said, reports Wehoville, a West Hollywood news source.
In his statement, D'Amico underscored how the controversy over Duran has distracted from the important work of the city, from "filling pot holes" to "being a beacon for LGBTQ people everywhere." The Southern California city is a famous queer capital, with 40 percent of residents identifying as members of the LGBTQ community.
"To get our city back on track John Duran needs to step away from being Mayor immediately and consult his conscience about what happens next," D'Aminco urged.
D'Amico claimed the City Council cannot remove Duran. City Council members are elected by West Hollywood residents and rotate the position of mayor among them. In an extreme scenario, the city's voters can move to impeach Duran.
However, D'Amico warned that the council has the power to take a "limited set of actions," including demoting Duran and defunding his travel budget if he does not step down.
Horvath said in her statement that she was "deeply disturbed" by the allegations of sexual misconduct. She also cited "protecting our City" in her argument for Duran's abdication.
"Our City cannot focus on the work of the people when we have to address new and numerous allegations of sexual misconduct, including whether our Mayor used his title to solicit sexual favors," Horvath said. "It is not fair to the people of this City to continue seeing ‘West Hollywood’ in the same sentence as these allegations. Our City deserves better."
“I am neither a judge nor jury and believe that all people deserve due process," said Meister, who joined her colleagues in the call for Duran to step down. “However, as West Hollywood holds itself up as an example for us, we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard – one we expect from any public office from City Hall to the White House.
“I believe that Mayor Duran should do what’s best for the City – in this case, it would be to step down from the position of Mayor, and perhaps, step away from the Council position so that he can focus on these issues and the City can focus on moving forward.”
John Heilman was the lone council member to remain silent on Duran. However, unlike his colleagues, Heilman is not seeking reelection in March, notes Wehoville.