Councilmember denies asking commissioner to resign

Commissioner John Sibert

Politics are thought to be behind the alleged move, which was later rescinded.

By Jonathan Friedman, Staff Writer

Planning Commissioner John Sibert said City Councilmember Joan House asked for his resignation last Thursday, then took back the request two days later. Meanwhile, House said neither incident ever occurred, and offered no explanation for what Sibert’s motivation would be to make up such a story. But a source that asked not to be named said House had in fact attempted to remove Sibert as a political move in preparation for the April 2004 City Council election.

The source said House wanted to replace Sibert with another appointee, who would then receive a few months exposure prior to the election. Then the appointee would run for House’s seat on a slate with Mayor Ken Kearsley and Councilmember Jeff Jennings. Malibu Community Action Network President Steve Uhring said he had heard the same story, and was disturbed that House would try to get rid of a man who is a chemist and could be a valuable asset to the city with his knowledge.

“Here we’re trying to create a development deal where wastewater is the key component, and she moves the guy from the Planning Commission who has the most knowledge about wastewater. There’s a brilliant move.”

Kearsley and Jennings said they knew nothing about the situation. Although Jennings said he had heard the appointee’s name mentioned as a possible candidate, he said the person was just one of many.

Sibert said House told him last Thursday on the phone she was disappointed he had missed some commission meetings and that he had not returned previous calls when she had tried to reach him to discuss various issues. Sibert said at some point in the conversation she made the request, which House denies she ever made.

“I don’t remember the exact words,” Sibert told The Malibu Times. “But ‘asking for a letter of resignation’ was part of it [the conversation].”

Sibert said he then sent House his resignation via e-mail, but he said she told him she was unable to open the document. He declined to forward the e-mail to The Malibu Times because he said he did not want to turn the issue into a trial. House told The Malibu Times she never received the e-mail. Sibert said he later called Commission Chair Robert Adler to tell him he was leaving his post. Sibert said he also received calls from Commission Vice Chair Deirdre Roney and Commissioner Richard Carrigan, who all expressed disappointment in what Sibert said had occurred.

“When I heard it, I was discouraged,” Carrigan said. “I didn’t understand it. I didn’t understand what the motive would be for replacing a seasoned, experienced planning commissioner. And if it’s [the motivation] political, it’s a very sad day.”

Roney and Adler confirmed they had spoken with Sibert, and that he told them he would be resigning.

Sibert said he received a call from House on Saturday. They had a discussion, and it was decided he would remain on the commission, while they would keep a better line of communication in the future.

House said she did not know why Sibert would think any of this occurred, but added it was interesting he would say that it happened, when it did not. In addition, she said she did not know where such a story would have originated and questioned how The Malibu Times got its information.

In response to House’s denial of having ever asked for Sibert’s resignation, Carrigan said, “One can draw their own conclusions from that.” House appointed Sibert to the commission in late October 2002. He replaced Ed Lipnick, who resigned due to an illness from which he later died.