West Hollywood City Council OKs paying for Duran's defense
The West Hollywood City Council on Monday voted in closed session to provide defense for Councilmember John Duran -– whose charges on a city-issued credit card have been the focus of a probe by Los Angeles County prosecutors -- should charges be filed against him.
Duran charged dozens of meals to his city credit card over three years, spending more than $7,000 at local restaurants over three years. County prosecutors are trying to determine whether the meals violated state law and whether they were necessary expenses.
"The City Council believes that it is in the public’s interest to provide such a defense based on the district attorney’s announced intention to make this a test case, challenging commonly understood practices pertaining to reimbursement of business expenses," City Atty. Michael Jenkins said in a prepared statement at Monday's council meeting.
Jenkins said Duran "adhered to city policy" and his “expenses were incurred within the scope of his duties as a city councilmember.”
Duran defended his expenditures during the meeting, saying all of the meals were over city business and that discussions during the meals led to city programs for transgender individuals, the establishment of a drug and alcohol recovery center in the city and federal money for the city.
"I wish I could tell you there was one Hawaiian vacation, one hooker at one of the lunches, one outstanding fact that would make you say, ‘Aha! There it is; that’s why he’s being prosecuted,’ but that’s not the case," Duran said.
Duran said he did not know why his charges are the focus of the probe by the district attorney’s office but suggested there may be political motivations.
Duran, an attorney, said he was "very active" in the campaign of Kamala Harris, who defeated Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley in a 2010 race for attorney general.
"I don't know if that's the reason; I don't know if there are other reasons," said Duran, who has created a legal defense fund for himself.
Prosecutors have collected hundreds of pages of records –- sales receipts, credit card statements and expense report forms -– from West Hollywood in recent months. David Demerjian, head of the district attorney’s Public Integrity Division, has said the meal expenses of other council members “paled in comparison” to Duran’s expenses.
"I don’t know what will occur, but if anything does get filed, I’m prepared to fight for my reputation and my integrity in the courts of Los Angeles,” Duran said.
-- Hailey Branson-Potts
Photo: City Councilman John Duran receives a hug after a press conference in 2011. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times