Guest Column: He Can’t Help Himself

Burt Ross

Now that Malibu City Council Member Bruce Silverstein has laid waste to City Hall by baselessly accusing his fellow council members, the city manager, city staff and the city attorney of corruption, lawlessness or nefarious motivation, he has moved on to new targets—the free press.

Silverstein has attacked Arnold and Karen York, longtime publishers of The Malibu Times and Hans Laetz, founder and manager of KBUU. Silverstein actually implied, again without an iota of evidence, that the Yorks did not endorse his candidacy because other candidates placed more political ads in their newspaper. Arnold, Karen and Hans are stalwarts of our community who have helped our city in innumerable ways over the decades, but none of this matters to the man on the attack.

The sad fact is that Silverstein cannot help himself. He earned his livelihood back on the East Coast as a litigator, and litigators thrive by being combative and argumentative. They tend to go for the jugular. Some voters in Malibu voted for Silverstein because they wanted an attorney on the council. They probably expected somebody who was deliberative and wise, but what we got instead is a person hell-bent on taking no prisoners. 

And so it should come as no surprise when he outrageously calls our city manager a “fascist;” accuses City Hall of corruption for suppressing the vote in Eastern Malibu by scheduling a construction project that was, in fact, scheduled by Caltrans; and alleges that most of his peers on the council are there for “the power, benefits and personal aggrandizement.” Facts simply do not matter. Innuendo is more than enough for this litigator always on the offense.

What is so sad is that Bruce does have talent, and could have played a positive role on the council, but Silverstein failed to comprehend that this is not a courtroom on the East Coast, but rather a laid back small town where neighbors know each other and civility, for most of us, is the order of the day. Only by working with others can positive things be accomplished in a place like Malibu, but that is not how Silverstein flourished in the cutthroat world of litigation.

So, what can we do to stop this train wreck before more damage is done, before there is a wholesale exodus of competent city employees in the midst of a pandemic and when Malibu is still recovering from the Woolsey Fire? Doug Stewart, an accomplished business executive who finished only about 300 votes behind Silverstein in the council election, has a good idea.

The city manager’s attorney sent a legal letter stating that Silverstein has harassed city employees and caused a hostile work environment. Any reputable corporation presented with such a letter would hire an independent expert in employment law to investigate the serious charges alleged in the letter. And, according to Doug, that is exactly what Malibu should do.

Silverstein, among others, would be deposed, and if the conclusion of the investigation were that Silverstein is in fact responsible for the alleged offenses, then at a minimum, he would be ordered to cease and desist. If he did, then the city manager and city employees would be able to function without being harassed and intimidated by Silverstein.

And, of course, we always have the option of making Silverstein the first public official in Malibu’s history to be recalled. If he cannot stop himself, then we the people must stop him. If anybody is to leave City Hall, it should be Silverstein, not the good people there who work so hard on our behalf. 

Silverstein’s destructive behavior needs to end now. Enough is enough.