WEST HOLLYWOOD (CBSLA.com) — A sex scandal that rocked West Hollywood last year continues to have implications for residents who are paying for the fall out.
CBS2’s Tom Wait explains how the sex scandal continues to have repercussions in West Hollywood government and for residents.
It’s a story that is Only On 2.
John Duran’s been one of the key figures behind the gay rights movement in Los Angeles and across the state.
But for the past year West Hollywood City Councilman Duran was also embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal that rocked West Hollywood City Hall. His accuser is Ian Owens – a man Duran hired to serve as his deputy on the council.
Just this week the city tried to put the allegations to rest – agreeing to pay Owens $500,000. The money will come from a statewide insurance policy.
According to the terms of the settlement no one involved is admitting any wrongdoing.
CBS2/KCAL9 legal analyst Steve Meister said cities don’t like lawsuits.
“Cities don’t like to get into high profile trials where they might be found liable .for sexual harassment or have an elected official be found liable,” Meister said.
Owens launched his suit claiming he was wrongly suspended after blowing the whistle on a co-worker at city hall. He also claimed he was sexually harassed by Duran.
The lawsuit put the spotlight on West Hollywood’s highly paid deputies – there were five in all – one for each councilperson. Annual salary and benefits topped out around $175,000 to each. Wait checked several cities — like Santa Monica and Beverly Hills — with similar populations. In those cities he found the councils shared one assistant or deputy who was paid significantly less.
The West Hollywood council voted to wipe out the positions in June of last year, but because of union rules the city had to keep paying them – for doing absolutely no work. Owens was finally taken off the payroll in December. The other four were not laid off until last month.
“They had to make some accommodation under the collective bargaining agreement before they showed them the door,” Meister said.
Duran says he cannot comment on the settlement but admits he had one sexual encounter with Owens before Owens was hired. A city spokesperson says Duran was cleared of any wrongdoing by an independent investigator.
Owens attorney released a statement that says the former deputy wants to move on with his life – and on whether there was wrongdoing – the attorney says the $500,000 settlement speaks for itself.