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‘It is the sin of Salem’: West Hollywood’s gay mayor refuses to resign over sex assault allegations

‘It is the sin of Salem’: West Hollywood’s gay mayor refuses to resign over sex assault allegations
West Hollywood’s city council is searching for ways to oust Mayor John Duran, after the scandal-prone gay mayor refused to step down in light of some serious sexual assault allegations that were compared to a ‘Salem witch hunt.’

Even by the flamboyant standards of West Hollywood, Mayor John Duran stands out. The openly gay mayor has joked about wearing gold underwear, launched a public forum on anal cancer called ‘Booty Call to Action,’ and was accused by a fellow councilman of swiping for casual sex on Grindr during council meetings.

While Duran has built a political career on cheekily expressing his sexuality, the lawsuits have piled up.

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First the city paid $500,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit against Duran from his former deputy Ian Owens. Duran hired Owens as his deputy after meeting him through Grindr and having sex with him.

Now, more allegations of harassment have surfaced, from the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, a choir that Duran once chaired. Its members accused the mayor of unwanted groping and inappropriate comments. Several members alleged that Duran cornered and fondled them, before slipping away when they expressed shock.

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Duran dismissed the allegations. “Am I the only gay man in town who uses bawdy sexual humor? Or says inappropriate things?,” he wrote in a Facebook post last week. “So, will I resign?,” he concluded. “Those of you who know me - well know the answer. HELL NO.”

Some of Duran’s alleged victims spoke at a council meeting on Tuesday, at which the council’s five members vowed to limit the mayor’s term to one year, and to search for ways to legally oust Duran from the position.

The city’s Public Safety Commission vice chairman Robert Oliver already resigned last week, in protest at the city’s reticence to more strongly condemn Duran.

“It is time that the #MeToo movement comes to West Hollywood,” he said at the time. Duran, for his part, did not directly criticize the #MeToo movement, but compared the movement to oust him from the West Hollywood city council to the Salem witch trials and said he will “never admit conduct that never occurred.”

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If Duran were to be removed from his position, he would become a regular city councilman again. A petition signed by 20 percent of registered voters in the city would be the only way to push him out of the council for good, local news outlet KTLA reported.

Duran isn’t the only gay political figure in California to face public outcry. Protesters who converged on Tuesday’s City Council meeting also demanded the council take action against Ed Buck, a prominent Democratic donor and LGBT activist. Two gay black men were found dead at Buck’s Los Angeles apartment in the last two years, with one of them alleging before his death that Buck supplied him drugs and coerced him into sex acts.

Duran worked as an attorney for Buck for several years, and Buck donated $10,000 to Duran in 2014.

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