Last week, your newspaper reported the court’s decision in “Sierra Club vs. City of Malibu.” The case concerned the City Council’s approval of two homes on Latigo Shores Drive decided in May 2000. Then Mayor Tom Hasse was unexpectedly absent and Councilmember Harry Barovsky’s recent death left the fifth City Council seat vacant.
With only three council members present, and since Councilmember Ken Kearsley had already decided the case as a planning commissioner prior to his election to the City Council, we asked then City Attorney Steven Amerikaner if we could proceed with Councilmember Kearsley still present for a quorum, but recused from decision-making. The city attorney opined that a quorum was present and we could proceed. We did. The judge in this case disagreed with Mr. Amerikaner’s advice.
Prior to a quasi-judicial public hearing (where the City Council acts as judges deciding a case as opposed to acting as lawmakers), we’re required to disclose any ex-parte communications with any parties or any site visits connected to the case that could influence our decisions. Like my colleagues, I have always done this. The videotape of the May 2000 meeting shows a lengthy disclosure and discussion by Councilmember Jeff Jennings. I followed with what I thought was basically, a “me, too” disclosure. I did acknowledge visiting the site, but I did not mention Mr. Mike Barsocchini, the architect, by name. This was not deliberate, as the judge opines, but simply an omission on my part.
Finally, let me point out Sierra Club attorney Frank Angel thought enough of my record as a City Council member to endorse me and donate $75 to my 1996 re-election campaign.
I have and will continue to judge all cases that come before the City Council fairly and without regard of who supported, opposed or was neutral during my three campaigns for City Council. And you can bet that I will not forget to disclose in great detail any ex-parte communications during public hearings before the council.