Guest Column: Disruptive and Destructive

Letter to the Editor

Just when civility and decency are returning to our nation’s capital, we here in Malibu are experiencing a locally disruptive and destructive force like nothing we have ever witnessed.

Recently elected to the city council, Bruce Silverstein has entered the political scene with guns blazing. He has baselessly charged City Hall with corruption, dominated council meetings, alienated many city employees and has even gone so far as to call Reva Feldman, our city manager, a fascist and a liar—much of this in just a month’s time.

Silverstein’s unrelenting personal attacks and obsessive demands have resulted in a legal letter from Reva’s attorney asking that her contract be bought out, with the possibility of lawsuits to follow. The letter refers to Silverstein’s behavior as “unhinged” and says he is acting in a way that “exposes the City of Malibu to future claims for … harassment, retaliation, hostile work environment, discrimination, constructive termination, and who knows what else, if Mr. Silverstein persists with his lies and paranoid, delusional grievances against the city manager.”

Silverstein’s destructive attack on our city administration could not have come at a worse time. We are in the middle of a pandemic with significant economic costs, and we are still recovering from the Woolsey Fire. This is no time for Malibu to lose an honest and experienced city manager, nor for our city to be preoccupied with defending lawsuits with potentially costly results. How many other good people will leave City Hall because of Silverstein’s onslaught remains unknown. 

The self righteous Silverstein somehow sees himself as a crusader against corruption. He reportedly helped prepare Jefferson Wagner’s seven-page affidavit alleging corruption in City Hall. The affidavit is overwhelmingly hearsay upon hearsay mixed with rumor and innuendo.

Having been a member of the New Jersey Bar for over 40 years, I can say that most of the contents of this affidavit would no more be admitted as evidence in a court of law than Rudy Giuliani’s baseless claims of rampant election fraud. An attorney himself, Silverstein should know the affidavit is worth less than the paper it is written on. 

Silverstein wants to head a committee with subpoena powers  to investigate rumors of corruption, many of which he has started himself. For instance, on Election Day, Silverstein posted on Facebook an accusation, again without any facts, that City Hall had scheduled construction at the intersection of the PCH and Malibu Canyon Road in order to suppress the vote in Eastern Malibu. 

Had Silverstein been interested in securing facts before making baseless accusations, he would have learned that the project was a Caltrans—not a city—project, lasted well beyond Election Day and rarely held up traffic for more than 10 to 15 minutes. I am not aware of even one person who was prevented from voting because of this construction. His attack on the city simply borders on the insane.

Acting like a self appointed crime fighter, the humorless Silverstein has bombarded City Hall personnel with so many demands that he is interfering with the smooth functioning of city government. He has even gone so far as to demand that any Malibu documents, emails, etc. that contain “Costa Rica” be turned over to him. He so dominated a recent council meeting by bloviating endlessly that the meeting had to be adjourned after 1 a.m., before most of the agenda items could be addressed. 

The loose accusations of corruption and even criminality are putting all those who work in City Hall under a cloud of suspicion. The impugning of people’s integrity without evidence is reminiscent of Joe McCarthy and Roy Cohn, neither of whom had any compunction about smearing reputations, the facts be damned. Justice is turned on its head when people are assumed guilty.

If Silverstein has any real evidence (not rumor) to prove criminal conduct in City Hall, he should immediately meet with the U.S. Attorney’s office, the FBI or the LA County District Attorney’s Office. These entities have the resources and expertise to sort through these allegations. He needs to understand we elected him to be our councilman, not our prosecutor.

Silverstein is misreading the results of the election. He did come in first, but most people in Malibu did not vote for him, and he only received roughly 300 more votes than the number four finisher, Doug Stewart. Many of his voters may have wanted an attorney to sit on the City Council, but not a bull in a china shop or a delusional bully.

Silverstein needs to simmer down immediately. Several of his supporters have already advised him to lower the temperature, but he seems incapable of controlling himself. If he does not change course soon, the voters of Malibu who elected him can recall him. His destructive conduct cannot be allowed to continue.