Malibu mayoral change fraught with intrigue

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From left: City Manager Jim Thorsen, Councilwoman Laura Rosenthal, Mayor Pro Tem Joan House, Mayor Lou La Monte and Councilmen Skylar Peak and John Sibert. 

The next meeting of the Malibu City Council on June 12 will conclude Lou La Monte’s nine-month term as mayor of Malibu and bring up a thorny question: who will replace him, and who becomes mayor pro tem?

Current Mayor Pro Tem Joan House is next in line to be appointed mayor, according to tradition, and Councilman Skylar Peak has said he will try and contend for the job as mayor pro tem.

“I don’t think there’s any reason for me not do it,” he said in April.

House appears likely to be voted mayor this time, although the council betrayed somewhat less fealty to tradition in August 2012, the last time the council “reorganized,” or rotated positions.

That’s when a majority of the council, comprised of House, La Monte and Councilwoman Laura Rosenthal, voted to install House as mayor pro tem rather than Peak, who had had been the leading votegetter in the 2012 municipal elections. At the time, Peak was under a police investigation for allegedly threatening a security guard at Point Dume Village shopping center, after which he admitted to suffering from bipolar disorder.

Rosenthal and La Monte said at the August meeting that Peak should not serve as mayor pro tem while the investigation was open, and added that he needed more experience as a councilmember. The charges were later dropped.

In April, Peak was sentenced to two years probation after pleading no contest to a reckless driving charge stemming from a Christmas Day car crash in which he damaged Caltrans road delineators on Pacific Coast Highway.

Peak said Tuesday that the incidents were in the past, and did not foresee any problems in the future. He said his bipolar condition was under control and he was capable of being mayor pro tem for the city.

“I’ve just got to move forward and continue to represent our city well and be a good person in our community,” Peak said.

Rosenthal, meanwhile, said circumstances surrounding Peak have changed since the August rotation.

“I don’t see the problem that I saw the last time,” Rosenthal said.

Regarding the reckless driving incident, Rosenthal said, “Something like that is always a concern but … life is always going to bring you something and you just have to deal with it.”

La Monte hesitated to comment on his stance at next week’s meeting.

“That’s a decision the whole council has to make,” La Monte said Tuesday. “We’ll discuss it when we’re all there.”

Councilman John Sibert also declined to predict what would happen on Monday, noting that “there’s been a precedence [to elect the top vote-getter mayor pro tem] but that had been re-set after the last re-organization.

“Skylar and I work together on a lot of stuff,” Sibert said. “I have no issues with Skylar but let’s just see what the majority vote is.”

Under the City of Malibu’s council-manager form of governance, each council member gets to serve as mayor during his or her term. The positions are rotated approximately every nine months.