Pressure is mounting for West Hollywood Mayor John Duran to resign amid allegations that he sexually harassed fellow members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles.
On Wednesday, West Hollywood City Council members Lindsey Horvath, Lauren Meister, and John D’Amico posted statements on Facebook lamenting how the scandal is impacting the city and urging Duran to step down.
“West Hollywood as a city is suffering as a result of the numerous and repeated allegations against Mayor Duran,” Meister wrote. “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.”
On Wednesday, Duran told the Los Angeles Times that he believes he is being targeted unfairly by council members, and that the public should wait for the facts before making a judgement.
“I think, unfortunately, one of the problems with the #MeToo movement is that any accusation against somebody is treated as truth without any investigation,” he told the Times. “I think every accusation of sexual misconduct has to be taken seriously to protect victims. But once the accusation is made, there has to be an investigation to determine what the truth is.”
Duran, who has served as mayor of the city since 2018, has been accused by multiple current and former chorus members of groping and sexually inappropriate comments. Jason Tong told the Times that he left the choir after Duran slipped his hand inside Tong’s underwear in a changing room before a performance. Another chorus member, Brian Phillip Nichoalds, said Duran slipped his hand under his waistband and made “sexually charged comments” to him. He also alleges that no action was taken by chorus leadership after he’d reported the incident.
In the interview with the Times, Duran denied any misconduct. “I haven’t done anything wrong. I’m not going to resign,” he said. “They’re going to have to wait for the investigation to occur and reasonable minds to go through the accusations and draw conclusions.”
But the city’s political apparatus appears to be angling for a quicker resolution. On Monday, Robert Oliver, vice chairman of the city’s Public Safety Commission, resigned in protest after other commissioners failed to condemn Duran. “I’d like to know why the rest of the commission would stay silent when we have the second, third and fourth allegation against the mayor of our city,” Oliver said at a public meeting.
Duran was previously the subject of a 2016 sexual harassment lawsuit by his former City Hall deputy, Ian Owens. The suit, which was settled for $500,000, alleged that Duran made sexually inappropriate comments to his deputy, who he had initially met on Grindr. Owens claims Duran told him, “I would bottom for you any day,” and that he was tasked with updating Duran’s address book with men he had slept with, noting each man’s penis size and sexual skills. At the time of the lawsuit, Duran was also reprimanded by fellow Councilman D’Amico for cruising Grindr during public meetings.
After the first of two black men died at prominent Democratic donor Ed Buck’s home, activists claimed that Duran—who spent more than a decade as Buck’s attorney—dissuaded sex workers from testifying to investigators about the donor’s conduct, according to the Times.
Duran denied these claims in an interview with the publication. “I don’t have any sway over the Sheriff’s Department’s enforcement of the law or the African American [Los Angeles County] DA Jackie Lacey making her determination on whether or not to file charges,” he said.
In an interview with WeHo Times blogger Paulo Murillo, published February 13, Duran denied the Tong incident, referring to the chorus member as a “skinny Korean kid with pimples on his cheek.”
Correction: This post has been updated to accurately reflect the nature of Duran’s comments to the WeHo Times.
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