Silverstein Denied Mayor Pro Tem Role

Silverstein speaking during a mid-December 2020 Malibu City Council meeting. Uhring is in the upper middle. 

On Monday, Dec. 14, three new members were sworn into Malibu City Council: Bruce Lee Silverstein, who earned the highest number of votes in November, followed by Steve Uhring and, finally, Paul Grisanti. But when all was said and done, it was Grisanti who came away with the ceremonial title of mayor pro tem, a break with a precedent that goes back nearly 30 years.

Silverstein, Uhring and Grisanti will fill the roles of the 2016 “Save Malibu” slate candidates: Rick Mullen, Skylar Peak and Jefferson “Zuma Jay” Wagner. Because of Malibu’s system of government, each council member is traditionally offered the opportunity to serve as mayor, with a different member elected to the position every nine months.

When it came time to vote for the next mayor pro tem, Grisanti and current council members Karen Farrer and Mayor Mikke Pierson voted for Uhring. When Uhring declined the position and threw his support behind Silverstein, Pierson, Farrer and Grisanti then nominated and elected Grisanti, whose vote tally earned him the No. 3 spot in the 2020 election. 

The only other time the tradition of the highest vote-getter not being elected pro tem was broken was in April 2012, when the council chose not to elect Council Member Skylar Peak, who was struggling with mental health issues at the time, to the honorary position.

“I believe this is a personal vendetta that is being waged by members of the council who did not want to see me elected, notwithstanding the fact that 2,400 residents felt differently,” Silverstein said. “I just think your actions are going to be remembered down the line and you’re going to start hearing about it tomorrow.”

“I’m not sure how you expect me to vote to support you with what I feel are unending personal attacks,” Pierson responded, saying that some of Silverstein’s actions, such as saying the council had committed a Brown Act violation by choosing a new city attorney in a closed meeting, confounded him. “This started long ago when you were campaigning that you tried to marginalize Karen [Farrer] and I and all we’ve done is work our butts off here.” Pierson also brought up the fact that he felt the council should change the tradition of electing new members as pro tem just as they’ve entered on city council, referencing that he himself experienced a steep learning curve during his time as pro tem.

“The campaign is over,” Silverstein said. “I would suggest you get over your upset-ness from whatever was said during the campaign that you think marginalized you and act like a grown-up.”

Pierson laughed and said the last time the highest vote-getter had been sidestepped was when council members worried about Peak’s fitness for the role, and that was how Pierson said he was feeling now. 

Farrer nominated Grisanti after Uhring repeatedly turned down the pro tem role. Then, it was time for the roll call. 

Farrer and Grisanti voted first, for Grisanti. 

When the clerk called for Silverstein’s vote, he asked, “Does it really matter?” After a pause, Silverstein said his own name. 

Next, Uhring voted for Silverstein.

Lastly, Pierson sealed the deal: Paul Grisanti became Malibu’s new pro tem, 3-2.