It is a good thing that the city attorney has resigned, and also a good thing that the city has provided reasonable severance pay to a civil servant of nine years tenure.
These moves clear the air in our community for open and honest debate and discussion on the urgent issues confronting us. Regrettably, the city attorney had fallen into the appearance of an over-zealous prosecutor of alleged political offenses, and a politically polarized position with respect to City Council members, past and present. The situation was clearly brought into focus by the lengthy investigation of Remy O’Neill, but has a longer history.
The (apparently) politicized prosecutor seems to be a regular and menacing theme of our times. The citizens of Malibu, in whose name the local election campaign law was drafted, certainly never intended such draconian procedures be applied to what is evidently a minor record-keeping error by an outstanding and politically active citizen. And once an appointed official, in whom discretion is vested, becomes politically colored, a conundrum is created for the whole community — a log jam in which everyone regrets to act for fear of taking on the appearance of improper partisanship.
But ultimately it is up to the legislators — in this case the council — to adopt laws that are less subject to misinterpretation and trivial misapplication. In the bigger picture, it is essential that citizens and their representatives be forever vigilant to avoid giving to officials and employees too many levers of power, too many well-meaning rules of all kinds that can be easily used as tools against individuals. I urge the City Council to consider that our election campaign laws need revision to pass Constitutional muster, as well as “the rule of common sense” (i.e., that it is an uncommon virtue).