West Hollywood City Councilman John Duran said Ed Buck once hung
an effigy of him in a park.
Some municipal employees said they refused to meet alone with
him, and he unnerved two political foes so much at council
meetings that sheriffs deputies accompanied them to their cars
Still, for years, Buck was a fixture in West Hollywood, where he
donated to all but one of the current City Council members,
enmeshed himself in local activist groups and ran,
unsuccessfully, to be a councilman himself. In the liberal-
leaning city, he took on popular causes like historic
preservation and animal rights, which gave him more cachet.
Buck was tolerated more than beloved, said some of those who
took his money while looking past his caustic behavior.
That attitude has become the subject of much consternation in
West Hollywood and local Democratic circles after he was
federally charged in connection with the overdose deaths of two
black men in his West Hollywood apartment.
Bucks political influence has drawn intense criticism,
especially from black and LGBTQ activists who believe his status
as a white Democratic donor initially insulated him from
prosecution and that influential people made excuses for a man
whose volatility was on public display for years.
Jasmyne Cannick, a black political consultant who pushed for
Bucks prosecution, said she believed Buck got special treatment
because of his fundraising for local Democratic candidates, a
charge officials have denied.
Its more than race and class, Cannick said after the second
death in Bucks home in January. It is also political. This is
a man protected by the Democratic Party.
Bucks attorney, Seymour Amster, has declined repeated requests
for comment. Buck has pleaded not guilty to the federal drug
A Times analysis of campaign finance records shows that, since
the mid-2000s, Buck has given more than $500,000 to political
candidates and causes, almost all of them linked to the
Forty politicians currently holding office in California have
received donations from Buck, including Gov. Gavin Newsom, Los
Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, L.A. County Dist. Atty. Jackie
Lacey and U.S. Reps. Ted Lieu and Adam B. Schiff. Some
politicians have returned the money.
Former West Hollywood Councilman Steve Martin said people felt
more comfortable criticizing Buck since his arrest. But he said
he found it interesting that everybodys anxious to say they
are no longer his friend because obviously a lot of people
were friends with him.
I think its kind of horrifying for people to think this is
somebody you knew, you might have worked with, you might have
gone to dinner with or gone over to his apartment, to think hes
capable of these things, said Martin, who worked closely with
Buck on anti-development campaigns.
Prosecutors allege Buck, 65, preyed on vulnerable gay black men
who were homeless, addicted to drugs or working as escorts and
lured them to his spartan Laurel Avenue apartment, where he
manipulated them into doing drugs for his sexual gratification.
Several men claimed Buck injected them with methamphetamine as
they slept, according to the federal complaint.
Buck has been federally charged with providing the meth that led
to the deaths of Gemmel Moore, 26, in 2017, and Timothy Dean,
55, in January. Prosecutors say a third black man nearly died of
an overdose in Bucks home last month. The Los Angeles County
district attorney charged Buck with battery and operating a drug
Duran said Buck hung the effigy in West Hollywood Park in 2005
and created a website called DumpDuran.com that declared the
politician sold out to developers with digitally altered
images of Durans face that had exaggerated bags under his eyes.
Back then, Buck was among a group of preservationists fighting
to save a 1915 Colonial-style estate nicknamed Tara for its
resemblance to the plantation home in Gone With the Wind, and
Duran had become the target of Bucks wrath over his vote to
turn the home into a senior living complex.
He was extremely volatile, angry, irrational, mean, a bully,
all those things. He was a real cyclone in the city, Duran
said. We were not friends.
But by 2011, Buck and Duran had become allies, championing a
local ban on the sale of fur apparel and other causes. Over the
next five years, Duran accepted at least $12,500 in donations
from Buck for his City Council reelection campaign and his
failed bid for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors,
state and local records show.
Thats what happens in politics, Duran said. You often end up
rubbing elbows with somebody that, maybe in previous campaigns,
you were mortal enemies with.
Duran went on to work as an attorney for Buck, a role for which
he has been sharply criticized but that he said was limited to
discussing real estate issues. He said he occasionally discussed
his own sobriety with Buck.
Ed is not a bad person. Hes a drug addict, Duran said.
Sadly, this is what drug addiction looks like: irrational
thinking and compulsive behavior and anger and volatility and
mental health challenges. ... I dont think its an excuse. I
think its an explanation.
Multiple people who currently or formerly worked at City Hall
told The Times they refused to meet alone with Buck. At public
meetings, he would rail against political foes in colorful and
sometimes crass language.
He would walk into a room, and you could read peoples body
language. People would just tense up, said one former city
employee who spoke on the condition of anonymity after years of
confrontations with Buck. He wasnt there to say something
nice. Most people arent; they have an ax to grind. But the way
he did it, this kind of Machiavellian way.
After council meetings, Buck stood in the parking lot, staring
into the former employees car, the person said.
Two people told The Times that sheriffs deputies attending City
Council meetings at which Buck was present accompanied them to
their vehicles afterward out of concern for their safety.
As we walked out, he would corner me before I could even leave
the lobby. ... Hed be poking his finger in my chest, said one
political adversary who spoke on the condition of anonymity out
of fear of retaliation. Sheriffs deputies, the person said,
witnessed Bucks behavior and said it would be best for me to
make sure I was accompanied going to the parking lot.
Capt. Michael Hannemann, a spokesman for the Sheriffs
Department, said the department could not corroborate the claims.
Buck donated to each of the current City Council members except
Mayor Pro Tem Lindsey Horvath.
Questions remain about the source of his wealth. Los Angeles
County prosecutors asking a judge to set bond for Buck at $4
million wrote in a bail motion that he was not employed, has no
known source of income, and might be funding his lifestyle of
preying on vulnerable men with narcotics trafficking.
In the 1980s, Buck was a well-known figure in Arizona, where he
led the effort to recall Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham, who
eventually was impeached. Then a Republican, Buck was known for
his bombastic actions, like hanging a piñata effigy of the
governor and feuding with a black Arizona State Capitol police
chief whom he called a baboon.
By the early 2000s, Buck had relocated to West Hollywood, where
he became involved with the Save Tara group.
Allegra Allison, who spearheaded the effort, said he was good at
mobilizing volunteers, ran phone banks in his apartment and
spent hours walking precincts. Buck told her he had given money
to neighbors who were being evicted, she said. He rescued golden
retrievers and doted on his dogs. Allison thought that, although
prickly, Buck had good intentions.
But she said she was disturbed by some of his aggressive
tactics, like creating the DumpDuran website, and by his
behavior at some activist meetings where he thought he was in
charge and did not listen to people who disagreed with him. By
the time the Tara issue was winding down in 2011, when the City
Council decided to preserve the Laurel Avenue estate, Allison
suspected Buck was using drugs. He would disappear for days,
then show up at her door with the skin on his face appearing
picked, she said.
Court records show that Buck has been the subject of several
requests for restraining orders in Southern California.
In 2011, Buck threw his support behind Mayor John DAmico, who
was running for City Council for the first time, pledging to
support a first-in-the-nation ban on the sale of fur apparel
that Buck was championing.
Buck organized a volunteer campaign called Fur Free WeHo that
canvassed the city on DAmicos behalf and packed City Council
meetings to press the issue.
For that campaign, Buck gave DAmico $500, the local maximum
individual election contribution, and claimed that the fur
campaign got DAmico elected. He gave him an additional $500 for
his reelection campaign, city and state records show.
DAmico told The Times that Bucks alleged criminal behavior was
not part of the person I knew nine years ago and that they
drifted apart after the 2011 election.
Its just terribly, terribly dark and terribly sad, and I cant
explain it, he said of the allegations.
Genevieve Morrill, president of the West Hollywood Chamber of
Commerce, was one of the most vocal opponents of the fur ban.
She said the Chamber worked with the Fur Information Council of
America, a fur industry trade group, on an economic impact study
that showed the ban would affect around 90 stores, while Buck
publicly claimed it only would affect a handful. When he showed
up at her office one day, Morrill asked him where he got his
He said, I pulled it out of my ass, Morrill said.
After the fur ban passed, Buck threw his support behind the 2013
council reelections of Duran and Los Angeles County Assessor
Jeffrey Prang, a former West Hollywood councilman, who voted for
it. From 2008 to 2018, Prang received $11,950 from Buck for
various campaigns, records show.
Prang said he knew that Buck was inclined to be a flamethrower
but maintained a cordial relationship with him. The county
assessor, whose office was accused this month of giving special
tax treatment as a quid pro quo for campaign contributions, said
he did not consider Buck a major donor. (The allegations against
the county assessors office do not involve Buck.)
There are friendships, and there are political friendships that
really involve civic and political association, Prang said. I
think Ed fit that category for a lot of people.
Prang and DAmico are listed as humane heroes on the website
for Animal PAC, a political action committee for which Buck once
was the top donor.
Animal PAC formed in 2011 and was terminated in 2014, according
to state records. Another group called Animal PAC formed in 2016
under a different state identification number and is a separate
entity, said Tony Hale, the organizations executive director.
Buck continued to donate.
In 2013, Buck cut a $250,000 check to Animal PAC. Hale said he
essentially gave the PAC a loan to try to influence others to
give big donations, but then, apparently, no one did and he
took it back. State records show Buck received a refund of
Hale said Animal PAC just wants to disassociate ourselves with
him and that in the animal community, this was an atomic bomb.
Animal rights activists said they had feared for Bucks safety
because they thought homeless and drug-addicted men would take
advantage of him, Hale said.
There was word among the activists in the animal community that
knew Ed that he had helped a lot of homeless, especially gay,
men, Hale said.
Hale, a member of the California Democratic Party executive
board, said many people gave Buck the benefit of the doubt after
Moores death. But doubts surfaced after Deans death and the
overdose of a man in his apartment last month, he said.
Now, I dont know what to believe, Hale said. Its one of
those things where lightning strikes twice, then three times.
What do you say? It just seemed like a tragic accident, then
with the second one, it seemed to be much more of a problem.
Earlier this year, Buck, a former steering committee member for
the Stonewall Democratic Club, an LGBTQ organization, tried to
rejoin the club, which also has sought to distance itself from
At the clubs request, Buck resigned in 2017 after Moores
death. After the district attorneys office in July 2018
announced that it would not be charging Buck in Moores death,
he began calling Stonewall officers, saying he had been
exonerated and wanted to come back, said Lester Aponte, the
On Jan. 5, the club was holding its annual holiday party at the
V Wine Room in West Hollywood. Buck came to the door, but board
members told him to leave, Aponte said.
We were incredulous that he seemed completely oblivious to the
damage he has done. ... There was no question in our mind that
we didnt want to see him at our party, Aponte said.
Two days after the party, Dean died in Bucks apartment.
Times researcher Maloy Moore and staff writer Richard Winton
contributed to this report.
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