WEST HOLLYWOOD—John Duran, the current Mayor of West Hollywood, has been accused of sexual harassment and misconduct by several members of the Gay Man’s Chorus of Los Angeles.
On February 5, it was reported by the Los Angeles Times that the Gay Man’s Chorus of Los Angeles informed its members on February 4, that Duran, a board chairman and a fundraiser for the organization would be stepping down from his role in the chorus in the summer of 2019. The announcement came in the midst of sexual harassment and misconduct allegations from three chorus members, who indicated their allegations were reported to the chorus membership committee, but never addressed or resolved.
Duran has been accused of making sexually inappropriate comments to chorus members Brian Phillip Nichoalds and Joey Firoben. Nichoalds and Jason Tong, another chorus member accused Duran of slipping his hand inside their waistbands. Firoben also reported another chorus member, who he accused of groping him multiple times. That incident was not addressed by the chorus leadership.
In 2016, Duran was sued by his former aide who claimed he sexually harassed him, while Duran was a member of the West Hollywood City Council. The aide sued both Duran and the City of West Hollywood. West Hollywood settled with the aide for $500,000. The city of West Hollywood and Duran never admitted any wrong doing transpiring between Duran and the aide.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the misconduct and discord is not new to the chorus. Chorus Executive Director Jonathan Weedman told the LA Times:
“This organization is rife with different levels of what people consider acceptable workplace conduct.”
It was reported that Duran was only made aware of allegations from Tong, which were later dismissed after the accusation was unable to be validated. Duran, who has been with the choir for 20 years, informed the LA Times that the chorus was a negative environment and that he planned to leave the organization in summer 2019, prior to the allegations being made.
Several members of the West Hollywood City Council have called for Duran to resign from his position as Mayor. Councilmember Lauren Meister posted the following on her Facebook page:
“Our strength as a City comes from our love for West Hollywood and from our shared values of compassion, respect and dignity.
It is very difficult for me to see our city divided, particularly, on how to address the various allegations against Mayor John Duran.
I am neither a judge nor jury and believe that all people deserve due process.
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.
West Hollywood as a city is suffering as a result of the numerous and repeated allegations against Mayor Duran. The City Council cannot force a resignation, “impeach” a colleague, or remove them from office – only the voters can do that. I hope that it does not come to that and I have hope that Mayor Duran will do the right thing.
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.”
Councilmember Lindsey Horvarth released the following statement on her Facebook page in response to the allegations against Duran:
“First and most importantly, I condemn in the strongest terms sexual harassment and assault in all its forms. No matter whether it is perpetrated against a woman or man or gender non-conforming person, this behavior is wrong and it is unacceptable.
I was deeply disturbed by the allegations made in a recent Los Angeles Times article about the Gay Men’s Chorus and its board chair, John Duran, and I am devastated to learn of more and similar stories since that report.
Throughout this time, I have been in close contact with our City Manager and City Attorney, as well as my colleagues. Last night, I also spent time talking with former Commissioner Robert Oliver, who spoke out at last night’s Public Safety Commission meeting, as well as other long-time members of our community. I know I am not alone in saying that protecting our City has been and remains of the utmost importance to me.
It is for this reason that I believe it is time for our Mayor to step away from his role on the Council. 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. 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. #WeHo.”
Duran informed the Los Angeles Times that he has no intention of resigning from his position as he has done nothing wrong.
Written By Emily Loudermilk and Donald Roberts