A recent announcement by West Hollywood Mayor John Duran has sprung up conversations about sexual abuse allegations.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Duran is stepping down from his board chairman position with the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles. He is expected to leave this summer.
The politician insists that the sexual harassment and misconduct allegations have nothing to do with his stepping down from the position. Instead, he says he was planning the departure after supporting the chorus for 20 years. Though, the “toxic” atmosphere in the organization after the “false allegations” added to his decision.
Part of that “toxic” behavior and those sexual misconduct allegations come from directly in the chorus itself. Three current or former chorus members claim that Duran made inappropriate comments or touches towards them. Singers Brian Phillip Nichoalds and Jason Tong reported strikingly similar times where Duran put his hands inside their pants or underwear.
Joey Firoben, who resigned from the choir last year because of sexual harassment, said he experienced two incidents with Duran including once where he was groped multiple times during a dress rehearsal.
All three men say that the chorus membership committee, which handles internal complaints, never investigated the allegations.
Before he left the chorus, Firoben shared with fellow members his complaints over managements’ negligence.
“I flat-out told them that I can’t support the organization anymore because there is too much sexual misconduct, particularly from leaders of the organization,” he told the LA Times.
Tong shares a similar sentiment and says chorus leaders "supported somebody who wielded power rather than somebody who is vulnerable and needs community.”
That said, Duran says that an independent investigator found no corroborating evidence to validate Tong’s accusations, and that was the only allegation that came to his attention.
Board member Dianne Abbitt also shares that she never heard of these allegations.
“If there was a problem, if there were allegations of sexual harassment, they would have been brought to the board,” Abbitt insisted. “Nobody has even asked me privately to have a discussion about allegations of sexual harassment or misconduct.”
“This organization is rife with different levels of what people consider acceptable workplace conduct,” added Executive Director Jonathan Weedman who has called for mandatory harassment training. “It is time for this, and perhaps a bit overdue.”