Sunday, May 6, 2012

As More Details Emerge, DA's Investigation of WeHo Councilman John Duran Comes At Inopportune Time for AD50 Candidate Betsy Butler

Betsy Butler and John Duran - April 16, 2012
More details are emerging about the the DA's probe of John Duran's city credit card use, turning the case into a cautionary tale of "Be careful what you wish for, because you might just get it."

As the LA Times reported yesterday, the LA County district attorney's Public Integrity Division launched into an investigation of city employee credit card use when supporters of Duran and challengers to an incumbent slate of City Council members filed a complaint during last year's contentious election campaign.

After a community activist made some of the expenses public last year, West Hollywood took away council members' credit cards and tightened controls on spending. The Times has since reviewed hundreds of pages of expenses accrued by Duran and other council members.

However, during the course of the DA's investigation, it cleared all the original targets of the complaint, then set it's sights on a new person of interest - former WeHo mayor and current council member John Duran.

West Hollywood Councilman John Duran charged dozens of meals to his city expense account, often multiple times a week. Over three years, he spent more than $7,000 at local restaurants, including at such upscale eateries as Cecconi's and Mirabelle on Sunset.....
David Demerjian, head of the district attorney's Public Integrity Division.....said Duran's expenses are suspect because state rules allow meal and related expenses only for "necessary city business." Expensing a meal when out of town on city business is permitted, he said. But it's not justified to regularly expense meals within the city, especially when guests are other city employees, he said....

Demerjian said the meal expenses of other council members "paled in comparison" to Duran's expenses. 
As first reported in West Hollywood Patch and this blog, Duran responded to the investigation by setting up a legal defense fund and hiring a criminal attorney. He's the only person of interest in the probe to do so.

Yesterday, the City of West Hollywood released this statement regarding the status of the case:

"The City has been informed that the District Attorney has completed its investigation as regards the City and its employees and the City does not expect any further action by the District Attorney with respect to the City or City employees," continued City Attorney Mike Jenkins. 

"The District Attorney has not informed the City of the specific allegations being made against Councilmember John Duran, so the City cannot comment at this point on the District Attorney’s inquiry."

The intense media focus on the DA's investigation comes at an inopportune time for one candidate running in the 50th Assembly District race, Betsy Butler.

Butler - a straight ally who only recently moved into the district to run for election there - has relied heavily on Duran to help sell her candidacy to the gay community in West Hollywood. Two of Butler's opponents are openly gay - West Hollywood resident Brad Torgen and Santa Monica resident Torie Osborn

Duran was the only West Hollywood official quoted in Butler's press release announcing her candidacy for the 50th Assembly district. As recently last week, he co-hosted a major West Hollywood fundraiser at the home of supporter Jeanne Dobrin.

WeHo Councilman John Duran draped across AD50 candidate Betsy Butler's 
lap at an April 29th fundraising event hosted by Jeanne Dobrin and John Duran

In January, Duran, a key supporter of AD50 candidate Betsy Butler, infamously blew up at Butler's opponent, Torie Osborn, during the West Hollywood/Beverly Hills democratic club endorsement meeting after Butler lost the club's endorsement in a close vote.

Duran caught on video yelling at Butler opponent Torie Osborn

Ironically, Osborn's campaign was prepared to accept a dual endorsement of both Butler and Osborn as recommended by the club's board, when long-time club member and Butler supporter Jeanne Dobrin inexplicably demanded a vote be called to deny the dual endorsement.

Dobrin's motion led to a series of votes which ultimately resulted in Osborn walking away with the club's sole endorsement.

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