From the desk of Arnold G. York: No Big Surprise!

Arnold G York

There was nothing there. No great intrigue, no corrupt cabal, no Machiavellian city manager, no suitcases full of cash, nada—nothing but a bunch of hot air being pushed by a bunch of hot air purveyors. It’s called politics and, like most of our politics, it’s become very dishonest and totally detached from objective reality. You don’t have to be a Trump supporter to be Trumpian and the Wagner affidavit was pure Trumpianism at its most cynical. 

So, let’s walk it back a bit a try and recall how it all came about. We had a city council election coming up and Bruce Silverstein and Steve Uhring wanted to run for two of the open seats. Their campaign basically was they were going to clean up the corrupt mess in City Hall and, first and foremost, going to get rid of our “evil, manipulative City Manager Reva Feldman” who somehow was responsible for the Woolsey Fire. The fire destroyed 1,500 homes and many more structures, one half on the valley side and the other half on the Malibu side with roughly 750 homes in the city of Malibu burning down. Our citizens were simultaneously both numb and outraged, and the stage was set. We had all heard the stories of the fire trucks refusing to go into the neighborhoods while houses were burning and the sheriff’s deputies acting imperious at the numerous roadblocks so the audience was primed. At a large public meeting held in Santa Monica, on a large stage filled with politicians and top brass, first responders and sort of chaired by Feldman, everyone was kind of told what a good job they had all done in keeping the damage to a minimum and avoiding loss of life. The audience didn’t quite see it that way and they exploded in rage and, after that, Feldman was pretty much toast. People love to have somebody to blame and Feldman, who was always competent city manager but never a great communicator, became the potential scapegoat, and Silverstein and Uhring, who both wanted to get elected to the council, seized on the political opportunity and rode it successfully to election. Once elected, they launched a campaign in the council, in the press and, most of all, in social media to force Feldman out and, when it became clear that the war had to end if the city was to function, the city bought her out of her contract much to everyone’s relief, especially Reva, for whom this had become a constant nightmare. It probably would have just ended there, all of it simply written off to city politics, until Jefferson “Zuma Jay” Wagner, with one foot out the door, having been termed out, circulated an affidavit claiming there was corruption and bribery in city government. Those kind of charges that have to be taken seriously, especially when leveled by a former mayor and city council member as he leaves. The city did what is generally done when these kind if charges are made and hired an independent reputable law firm to investigate the charges and write a report on their findings and that’s exactly what they did. The report was just released this week and is now posted on the city’s website. After one year of work, hundreds of thousands of dollars, interviewing 28 witnesses including Wagner, and examining all sorts of documentary evidence, their conclusion was clear and unequivocal. They said, “the allegations and insinuations of public corruption set forth in the December 2020 affidavit of former city council member Jefferson Wagner are either inaccurate or unsubstantiated. In our opinion the credibility of the affiant [Wagner] also is doubtful.”

I’ve personally known Jefferson Wagner for many years and have found him to be a very hardworking and conscientious public servant and never to be a liar, but he appears, I must confess, to be almost terminally naive and easily swayed by those around him. Clearly, he did not write the affidavit, but he did sign it, and therefore must bear responsibility for what it said.