Incumbents decline invitation to candidate forum

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Election opponents say incumbents Mayor Andy Stern and Councilmember Sharon Barovsky are afraid to publicly debate their record. The two incumbents say they were informed too late.

By Jonathan Friedman / Assistant Editor

Mayor Andy Stern and Councilmember Sharon Barovsky said they would not be attending the candidate forum on Saturday hosted by the Malibu Township Council because they were not informed about it until after they had already agreed to a previous engagement. Candidate John Mazza said it was not possible they were unaware of the event, and suggested they were dodging the forum.

The Malibu Times obtained a copy of an e-mail dated Feb. 21 that was addressed to all the candidates, including Stern and Barovsky, inviting them to the forum. The incumbents said they never got the message, with Barovsky saying because the e-mail was sent to her personal address rather than the one she uses with the city, it would have automatically gone to her spam folder, since that is what happens with all e-mails coming from people not in her address book.

“The most important point is that no follow-up phone call was made,” Barovsky said. “After I did not respond, one should have been made. E-mail is notoriously unreliable.”

Barovsky said she was not made aware of the forum until last week when another council member mentioned the event was listed in The Malibu Times’ calendar section. Stern said he did know about it until an e-mail was sent to him on Monday.

MTC Board Member Jay Liebig said it was probably a regrettable decision that nobody from the organization contacted the incumbents a second time through the telephone. He said the idea that the MTC might not want Stern and Barovsky at the forum was absurd, but he theorized the issue could be that the incumbents did not want to come.

“We are in the middle of a campaign and I’m not sure if they feel they can trust us,” Liebig said. “The Township Council has always tried to be nonpartisan, so if they’re drawing a conclusion based on my membership, they’re really going the wrong way.”

Prior to cityhood, the MTC was the unofficial governing body for Malibu. It remains a politically active organization, with representatives usually speaking in opposition to the City Council during meetings. But in recent years it has become a mysterious group. Few know when the organization meets or who its members are. Liebig said in an interview on Tuesday that he did not know who the president was. Also, no contact information was provided to The Malibu Times for its forum to go along with the calendar listing of Saturday’s event. One board member offered last week to provide a post office box number and when Liebig was asked this week, he said the organization members should talk about getting an official phone number or e-mail address.

Mazza, who will attend the forum with fellow candidates Ryan Embree and Ed Gillespie, said it was unfortunate the incumbents would not attend the forum.

“I’m disappointed in their arrogant disregard of Malibu voters, but I understand why they are afraid to publicly debate their record,” Mazza wrote in an e-mail to the newspaper.

Stern and Barovsky said they would have attended the forum had they known about it before their previous engagement for a candidate coffee session hosted by another person was booked.

“Why would we not attend?” Barovsky asked. “I go to everything I’m asked to go to.”

Saturday’s forum will take place at Webster Elementary School, located at 3602 Winter Canyon Road, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.