BLOG: City Hall Romper Room

The dysfunction on the third floor of City Hall makes it look like a kindergarten class with feuds, rivalries, allegiances and jockeying for position amongst the City Council members.

At the signs of City Council dysfunction were literally on parade.

Although there was a float for West Hollywood Commissioners which could have accommodated the City Council, they avoided the opportunity to present a show of municipal unity. Apparently the idea of spending an hour together with forced smiles was too much of an imposition for our elected officials.

City Hall observers chuckled as John Heilman and Abbe Land rode in one car while newly elected John D’Amico rode alone. Council member John Duran was able to skip his parade duties as he is the master of ceremonies for the event and does a wonderful job.

Confronted with the prospect of snubbing D’Amico by riding with Heilman and Land and terrified of invoking the wrath of Heilman by riding with D’Amico, Jeff Prang demonstrated his usual aptitude for avoiding leadership by riding with Congressman Adam Schiff.

While the public image of our City leaders is that of a wise and progressive team working for the public good, the reality is quite different. The Council is divided by jealousies and rivalries that seem more appropriate to the late Roman Republic or the last days of the Soviet Union. When Abbe Land refers to the City “family,” visions of the Borgias come to mind.

While the City Council tries to maintain a façade of unity, the snarky comments at Council meetings and recent references to disagreements between “friends” reveals some of the deep seated dysfunctions that are driving the City Manager crazy.

Since John D’Amico’s election last year, veteran Council member John Heilman has refused to speak to him. Apparently Heilman resents and resents the defeat of his puppet Lindsey Horvath. The fact that Heilman finished a distant third in the election certainly didn’t help.

While Heilman will communicate with D’Amico at meetings, he refuses to even acknowledge his presence at City Hall, balking at even those polite greetings that most adults exchange at the work place.

This has created a domino effect whereby Abbe Land limits her contacts with D’Amico in order to show solidarity with Heilman. Furthermore Heilman and Land’s City Council deputies refuse to speak to the deputies of D’Amico or John Duran.

If you watch the Council deputies’ table during a City Council meeting, all you see are five glum looking people who self segregate. Jeff Prang’s deputy, Michael Haibach generally sits between the feuding factions and when he retires he could have an entirely new career as a United Nations peace monitor.

Incredibly, the City Manager’s efforts to instill a sense of professionalism among the deputies, including bringing in a facilitator, have come to naught. But you can’t really expect different standards of behavior for deputies when you have Council members acting like petulant children.

While normally this is the sort of conduct you would expect in middle school, this is not the behavior you would expect of adults, much less from a renowned law school professor.

This dysfunctionality finally came to a head a few months back when Heilman’s deputy Fran Solomon accused John D’Amico of assaulting her. Apparently Fran came out of her third floor office and ran into D’Amico who said, “Hello Fran,” or something similarly innocuous. Fran lost it and started yelling that D’Amico was somehow threatening her.

Apparently Fran first claimed D’Amico assaulted her, but then realized there were witnesses so the story morphed into allegations he was in her face or verbally abusive.

While I believe that these allegations are patently false, apparently Solomon, who is still smarting from , could not figure out a way to back down gracefully. After the City Manager was unable to resolve the incident, an ombudsman has been brought in at taxpayer expense. Of course because this occurred at City Hall, exaggerated rumors of a third-floor smack down were soon telegraphed among municipal insiders.

Even when the late Councilmember Sal Guarreillo launched an unsuccessful recall election against John Heilman in the mid 1990’s, the Council deputies managed to maintain a professional attitude. Sadly the grudges and paranoia of certain elected officials has poisoned the atmosphere at City Hall.

Unfortunately City Management seems to take an attitude that Heilman’s conduct is normal. Historically, it is normal for Heilman. For years he refused to speak with Sal Guarreillo, but then again, that was mutual. Heilman tried it on me a few times, but he never could maintain it for more than a couple of weeks. He learned that he ignored me to his disadvantage.

There are other fault lines dividing the City Council, although none as bad as the Heilman/D’Amico rift. Duran has not forgotten that Prang encouraged Lauren Meister to run against him in the 2009 election or the fact that Prang betrayed him when Prang provided the third vote to appoint Lindsey Horvath to the City Council, sealing Heilman’s three-person majority.

Both Prang and Duran at times appear to be jealous of D’Amico and have often been non-supportive of his proposals based upon the most flimsy logic. Needless to say this dysfunction only empowers John Heilman.

Much of this conduct is based upon the internal pecking order at City Hall, which is a source of never ending jockeying.

Currently most impartial observers would probably say John Heilman retains his position as the premier member of the City Council. John D’Amico would be second based upon his intelligence and being the sole person on the Council who seems capable of going head to head with Heilman in Council debate.

Abbe is clearly third in the pecking order; the fact she does not feel she needs to jockey for position helps. Duran edges out Prang for the fourth position for effectiveness based upon his clear mantle of messiah of Boystown. While I don’t agree with Duran’s pro-development vision for the City, at least he can articulate one.

Prang, largely due to his inability to be decisive, remains at the bottom of the pecking order, the position he held prior to the appointment of Horvath. While some perceive Prang as being a swing vote between factions, his very lack of decisiveness or vision blows that theory. Mere ineffectiveness does not make you a “swing vote.”

Clearly Heilman feels threatened. Due to his longevity, he has come to expect other Council members to defer, indeed kowtow, to him. Heilman believes that proper City Council protocol requires you to acknowledge his superior wisdom and defer to his judgment and he will let you pass an occasional fur ban.

But until D’Amico can put together a credible and coherent majority, Heilman will continue to be the leading voice on City Council. In the meantime our highly paid City Manager has to run a romper room on the third floor.

West Hollywood deserves better.

Steve Martin


This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

joninla August 03, 2012 at 04:06 PM
correct! You are indeed WRONG in making a personally biased flying leap of unrelated statements of opinion to continue to get to your continued need to make everyone who makes comments of opinion along with statements of fact appear from your objectively irrational need to portray any concerned and informed resident both incorrect about facts you still to date don't even try to educate yourself as each foundation for your certitude of judgement will stand unless your own post final judgment is later investigated by you and you learn the facts. Many have personal opinions that you are somehow representing the city in disguise to always defend what the city does. My opinion is not with the majority and think you are in need of self soothing social interaction and are trying to get that need filled by standing as the never-ending final judge of fact and lack of proof to your personal level of satisfaction. People are giving of their time to do what they think is inform and correct a normal but totally unaware of the actions that have been taken on public record. You get some kind of power trip from pretending you are interested in trying to understand what you haven't got an inkling could have happened without you having been made aware of it. Months of endless strange game playing and you don't even know there was a formal vote. Get some outside therapeutic assistance. Your spiral appears never-ending.
meister4weho August 03, 2012 at 04:23 PM
@Manny: Term limits may or may not make a difference in the short-term but will make a difference long-term. We have to think of the future of West Hollywood.
scott ferguson August 03, 2012 at 04:28 PM
To Joninla (responding to his personal attack above). By this point, you should get that your acting like a bully to silence my questions here isn't going to work. I didn't watch all of the last City Council meeting. I did watch the early part, but did not hear the vote on the garage. Nor did I see in the article here about the approval what the vote was. My question was, and is, is the vote was unanimous, and even the "outsider" in the council voted for it, does that not perhaps allay concerns of reasonable people that the project is not necessarily a disaster? Yours was the only response to the question - and it avoided the substance, but instead led to a rant about my social life. My question goes to the heart of the matter. I am honest that reading about all the opposition hear to the project caused me some concern. The silence from others is deafening. I get that a lot of you resent having your opinions challenged. Ironically, that seems to be the same objection a lot of you have (perhaps reasonably) to the current members. It's wrong if that exists on either side. But again - would someone please explain John D'Amico's vote and why it shouldn't be seen as a sign that maybe the project makes sense? To the point of this thread initially - on perhaps the key issue recently, doesn't a 5-0 vote indicate unity, rather than division, on the council?
Chloe Ross August 03, 2012 at 06:39 PM
What a tour de force this thread has become. Robo Garage - Everyone likes new toys. This object (of some ridicule before its actual construction) very likely will become a money pit and a target of real ridicule once the ever present and worldwide media get hold of it. No person's vote on the council indicates it is a good idea. You give this gang far more credit than they deserve. Councilman D'Amico - Judging by his reaction to the council meeting before last when he sat nearly speechless with a look on his face that shouts "gobsmacked"- seems to indicate that he had not signed on for what he was hearing. The coins fell from his eyes. Watch the video. He seems like a very sincere, well educated man and his commitment to the city seems genuine. It isn't easy being green. Jeff Prang - He has (as I have said before) a very amiable manner and fairly thick skin. He is far better looking than Albert of Monaco. Some posters (including myself) tend to overstate and reiterate their motives, honesty and experience. Term limits - the rhetoric makes it sound as if it's a fait accompli - IT IS NOT. The petition you are invited to sign or ignore as you wish is simply to place the question on the ballot. Assert your decision by voting on it. Self importance (including my own) has created a fencing event on the Patch. Perhaps stepping back, resisting the urge to call names and using research tools available to shore up positions posted here should be considered.
Chloe Ross August 03, 2012 at 06:48 PM
And: Steve Martin has several things going for him. He has worked for the city, been a council member, run a political campaign and is an attorney. My advice - don't play him cheap. He knows where the bodies are buried and whether you admire his opinions or not - he is a very unique position to comment. I have been in the same position with a large company for whom I worked - in Los Angeles - and I too have very long and detailed 1st hand information about behavior and actions which are not very beneficial to its image or practices. And I am not bound by any non-disclosue restrictions. It is a very fascinating position to be in. As I said - don't play Steve cheap. And in closing - if anyone has heard me at City Council meetings you know - like it or not - that I say what I feel and how I think on subjects that have importance to me for one reason or another. All of you can do this too. Those rants were not scripted. By going you can meet and greet all the heroes and the villains. It leaves many of us much better qualified to make comments here. My opinion.
scott ferguson August 03, 2012 at 08:18 PM
Chloe - I appreciate your addressing my question. But for me, believing he looked uncomfortable while voting yes (which is a very subjective guess on your part) doesn't change the fact that he voted yes, that he ran as an outsider ready to challenge the majority, that to my knowledge he didn't raise objections. I try to approach this objectively, which is why I've found myself thinking that many of the concerns here about the garage are legitimate. Yet when the vote is 5-0, which D'Amico part of it, when it was an agenda issue around for some time, and when he has voiced objections to other projects - sorry, but to me, objectively, that is evidence (hardly proof, but strong evidence) that the project is not nearly as bad as the near unanimous belief here would have me believe. I'm trying to deal with facts, not personalities or fears. I still am up in the air about the garage, but I do feel much better about it since D'Amico voted for it. I'm open to hearing reasons why that shouldn't influence someone like me who has had questions about the project.
Chloe Ross August 03, 2012 at 09:20 PM
First you would have to define exactly what "someone like me" means. If you can't do that then most of what I read from you is moot. Please tell me when and where I said this: "But for me, believing he looked uncomfortable while voting yes (which is a very subjective guess on your part)". I do not believe I even watched the vote for that item. It would indeed be hilarious to actually sit down with you face to face and have a conversation. I wonder if you speak the way you write? Or is this just for the hoi-polloi who post here. If you want to know more about the Robo Garage - do as the rest of us have done and look into and see which companies have used them, see how cost effective they are, dig deeper into how this all came about. Or reply on the votes of 5 people to assure you it's a good idea. Do you test drive a car when youu buy one? Or try on shoes? I wonder. How would I have any idea of what any of them are actually thinking? Did they assume there would be great hew and cry about it. Possibly. Do they realizes that tossing a move of the CH to another location sort of screwed up the impact of this devices long term efficacy - maybe. I do not number mind reading among my talents and therefore I have no clue what John was thinking when he voted yes.
scott ferguson August 03, 2012 at 09:31 PM
I have defined "someone like me" repeatedly. It is vaguely offensive that you raise this again, since I am certain you have read what I have written. You again seem afraid of the question by trying to focus attention on the questioner. You are better than that, Chloe. I am a 12 year West Hollywood resident, 11 year home owner, 59 years old, graduate of Northwestern, entire career in the business side of the movie industry, currently underemployed and struggling somewhat. The extent of my active political activities except for donating to congressional and presidential candidates is taking s year off from college to work for George McGovern in 1972. I have zero ties to the city government, apart from meeting a couple members at local meetings and getting a phone call from Abbe Land on Prang/Duran's behalf in 2009 (because I left my phone number at a local meeting). My involvement here is entirely as an interested, open-minded resident wanting to hear what the opponents' concerns are. What I am getting is a clearer view of people, whatever their legitimate concerns (and I suspect some are) have little interest in reaching out to people who aren't already of their mind-set. Again, if you'd like, give your opinion as to why D'Amico's vote for the project shouldn't assuage my worries to some extent? Asking me to once again tell you who I am in a dodge, pure and simple. Even if I were John Heilman, the question would be equally legitimate.
scott ferguson August 03, 2012 at 09:40 PM
To add - Chloe - you are right, I misread your earlier post. I thought you were referring to the most recent meeting where the garage vote took place. I didn't notice you were referring to the previous meeting. I apologize.
joninla August 03, 2012 at 09:45 PM
"Bully" you. You asked what was a straight forward question and I answered it since it was asked and unlike virtually all or most of your posts, I skim or ignore the same 'your not convinced' that you have been using for months despite peoples efforts to take time to direct you to factual information. I gave my opinion that your frequent assertions that if you should find facts to the contrary you would reconsider your repeated judgments were insincere. Your question 'am i wrong' was apparently sincere, but you proved you weren't going to accept anything but the affirmation that your convoluted well if he thinks this, and doesn't do that but votes this makes him just as bad or worse than the rest was wrong. Nobody could make such a judgment. But my how severe your emotional reaction. You asked. I thought you might have meant you wanted to be corrected if you were so obviously wrong. You kinda proved what was just an opinion I had that was not consistent with the majority of opinions that keep popping up over the same issue.
Chloe Ross August 03, 2012 at 09:50 PM
You have no clue what I am better than. Not only is that a stupid remark it is annoying. If you like John's vote on the robo lift - great. Like it. Be assuaged. Love it. Use it when it is built. Be vaguely offended by what you perceive. Condescend. To be quite honest I don't think I do read every word you write. Much relies on the individual's delivery of opinions and thoughts. Much is in the delivery of questions. This is why we have the diplomatic corps. When you say "someone" like me - I find it odd. You are you. You are not someone else or someone like you - you are you. I don't really care about your CV. My opinion regarding John's vote is mine. I can't tell you his vote should or should not assuage your fears. Ask him. Only you know what you feel about any of it and it is not my job to dissuade you from liking the project. If you like it- like it. I don't. As for trying to find out who is behind the Curtain of OZ - I wouldn't worry about it too much. That is why we have user names and it is also why I use my own. Technology is a wonderful thing and it is flexible and allows all of us to assume alter-egos at will. Some do, others don't.
joninla August 03, 2012 at 10:00 PM
Hey Chloe - Without trying to sell anyone cheap, it does surprise me how difficult it is for anyone on or who has been on the City Council to have the actual knowledge about who is really in control, how the process 'works' in practice (for example with the Duran Credit Card thing - what does everyone else do and were the schooled on what is ok and what isn't when it comes to credit spending). I would love to hear more about the dead bodies Steve might know of or have an inkling are lying around. But even an ex-insider seems to have been keep behind the wall of secrecy about the majority united vote and their professional relationship with the City Manager. I want to hear about a dead body or two from someone in the know - if not for curiosity sake alone. lol But the statement that Heilman does not talk with the other Council Members (weather it's an ego thing or a power play) is really disconcerting about exactly who is running our city and spending all those millions of dollars. Seems to me, silent Heilman and the City Manager must have their late night pow wows (when the building is closed and all the parking is full - except for those spots with the no parking 24/7 - which by the way points out there is never a problem for Heilman parking in the City Hall Lot when he works his fingers to the bone for our city into the late night hours - those are there for him 24/7. who else uses them is the question? and the answer I think? :)
scott ferguson August 03, 2012 at 11:08 PM
My intent was to show you respect - you, Sheila and Lauren seem to be the adults in the room. The other two don't make borderline personal attacks on me as you do sometimes. You are the one who first cited me comment as "someone like me," and in a context where of course I meant an independent-thinking resident looking for answers. I will look for Sheila, Lauren or someone else to answer my question. You have no obligation to, of course. But until someone convinces me otherwise, D'Amico voting for it assures me that the apocalyptic talk in these parts from many about it could be overstated.
James F. Mills August 03, 2012 at 11:23 PM
Once again, I will remind everyone that we are not here to engage in personal attacks. This comment board is here so people can engage in conversation, discuss ideas and trade information. It's fine to disagree in the course of dialogue. However disagree with the idea/concept, not the person. PHRASE your responses in ways that do not attack or disrespect other commenters. Treat others the way you would want them to treat you.
Chloe Ross August 04, 2012 at 01:51 AM
James is right and I err without realizing it. May I simply say that if the vote of John D'Amico soothes doubts on the Robolift - then that is fine. I simply don't think that way.
Chloe Ross August 04, 2012 at 02:02 AM
@joninla - yes wouldn't it be divine to actually have the skinny on the buried secrets. I would not think of asking though because it is such a loaded question. And the term is "play him cheap" - an old term from the balck community that I love - it simply means - don't underestimate (fill in the blank). - I pass it on with pleasure. Hope you can use it.
michael August 04, 2012 at 02:02 AM
James, Thank you for your comments ...I do agree with you. It's very obvious that the majority of comments seem to be from a small group that constantly put down certain council members and staff. The personal attacks are disgraceful and unjust.....
Chloe Ross August 04, 2012 at 02:07 AM
Anyone can post. Where are the supporters of our council. Why don't they weigh in?
michael August 04, 2012 at 02:13 AM
we have....on election day.
Chloe Ross August 04, 2012 at 02:15 AM
Not enough. They need the input of people like you and your colleagues. There are two sides to every story. Step up to the plate and comment.
Manny August 04, 2012 at 02:20 AM
They are disgraceful indeed.....and because of that, it makes me grateful that our City is not run by them.
michael August 04, 2012 at 02:22 AM
I feel our precious vote ( yours and mine) is more than enough... It's what I call stepping up to the plate.
Mike Dolan August 04, 2012 at 03:04 AM
Steve Martin has been rebuked time and again by the voters of West Hollywood. In March of 2003, the voters of West Hollywood sent a loud and clear message to Mr. Martin by making him the only elected incumbent council member seeking re-election to ever be defeated. Mr. Martins inaccurate slant is self-serving at best.
scott ferguson August 04, 2012 at 04:16 AM
Chloe, obviously I don't speak for James, but I don't think his post was aimed at you. It more likely was him catching up with some earlier posts.
Chloe Ross August 04, 2012 at 04:55 PM
Chumming for replies?
Chloe Ross August 04, 2012 at 05:04 PM
@michael - our precious vote is not enough really. Citizens need to voice their ideas, support and satisfaction. I have voted with one sad exception since I was 21 nationally; lived in enough jurisdictions to vote locally as well. It not stepping up to the plate. It is a gift we have been given, the importance of which should never be forgotten. When South Africa abolished apartheid and Mr. Mandela ran for president - I watched black South Africans walk hundreds of miles on foot to do something we often take for granted. It made me weep. And it made me realize that we take our right to vote as a given - not a gift. Not enough "step up to the plate". Not enough think one vote counts - but to exercise this right should be a fine act of thanks for this right. And every American should take it far more seriously. Obviously you do. Too many though accept the status quo. Taking part is also a gift granted us by law. It can be a powerful tool.
michael August 04, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Chloe, We do agree that our vote is precious...Citizens voice support and satisfaction by voting for a particular candidate.We can disagree on issues without these personal insults. Heilman has served these many years not by devine right but by citizens voting for him. The group leading the charge for Plummer Park is a fine example of of what can be done with strength, respect, and total determination.
Chloe Ross August 04, 2012 at 06:52 PM
I try hard not to slur or insult council members unless it is to them directly - which I have done. I know who prefers I say nothing and those who have no problem with what I say. I am "one of those women" of Plummer Park. City Hall knows my feelings on that subject. In defense of the council and the city - in the mid 1990's they were very supportive in my conflict with a perfectly loathsome building manager, owner and a resident drug dealer. I shall not soon forget how they backed my problems with legal responses. Nonetheless I believe strongly in new blood in government. I would very much like to see a much larger voter turnout in our city elections. MUCH larger. Those who do not vote really should factor in their laziness re: the polls when they complain. I vote every time. And as Momma Gertrude used to say: "Talk is cheap. It takes money to buy land".
michael August 04, 2012 at 06:57 PM
Fine....on this we agree.
Chloe Ross August 04, 2012 at 07:06 PM
Excellent - works for me.


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