calls for mayor to resign
Robert Adler, who was fired by Mayor Andy Stern as Planning Commission chair in 2003 for allegedly violating the state’s open-meeting law, says the mayor and three council colleagues should step down after a Court of Appeal panel last week ruled they violated the Brown Act. Stern says Adler is a “bitter man.”
By Jonathan Friedman / Assistant Editor
Former Planning Commission Chair Robert Adler said, in order to avoid being hypocrites and having a double standard, Mayor Andy Stern and all his colleagues on the City Council except one should resign due to a ruling made last week by a three-judge panel on the Court of Appeal’s 2nd District that determined the council violated the Brown Act when it approved a settlement with a developer.
The three colleagues who Adler said should resign are Mayor Pro Tem Ken Kearsley and council members Sharon Barovsky and Jeff Jennings. Adler did not call for Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich to resign because she was not on the council when it voted to approve the settlement with Trancas PCH.
Adler and former Planning Commissioner Deirdre Roney were fired from the commission by Stern and Barovsky in 2003 when they allegedly violated the Brown Act for discussing an item not listed on a meeting agenda and for allegedly discussing the item in private with some of the involved parties.
“Barovsky and Stern have set the standard,” Adler said. “Now we will have to see if they believe it applies to them, or if they have a double standard.”
Adler said Kearsley and Jennings should also resign because, although they did not fire their appointed commissioners, Richard Carrigan (who did not attend the meeting) and David Fox, at the time of the 2003 incident, they remained silent over the matter of whether Adler and Roney should have been fired, and therefore, in Adler’s view, accepted Stern and Barovsky’s actions.
All of the council members said they did not intend to resign. Stern said the current Brown Act issue and the one in 2003 are not the same because the council voted to approve the Trancas PCH settlement agreement during the portion of the meeting not open to the public, which the court said was a Brown Act violation, on the advice of City Attorney Christi Hogin. While in contrast, Stern said the Planning Commission ignored Assistant City Attorney Gregg Kovacevich when he warned it could not take the action that it did in 2003. However, at that meeting, Kovacevich never said the commissioners were in danger of violating the Brown Act. Rather, he said the action they were taking-agreeing to hear an appeal at a later date-could not be done because the resident asking them to do so did not have the ability to request the appeal.
Although Stern said the council was not negligent because it was acting on the advice of the city attorney, he said that does not mean Hogin should be fired. Stern looked to the fact that the Court of Appeal’s ruling reversed an earlier decision by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge that said the council had not violated the Brown Act, proving, he said, that there was room for interpretation of the council’s action.
“Not every decision you make is going to be 100 percent perfect,” Stern said. “Overall, Christi [Hogin] has done good work for this city.”
Adler took a different view on the matter, saying this was another example of why Hogin should not remain as the city attorney.
“The City Council needs to wake up to realize that poor advice from Christi Hogin continues to harm this city,” said Adler, who added that Hogin has a poor understanding of the Brown Act, noting that she publicly accused he and other commissioners of violating it the week before the firings.
Stern said he was not surprised by Adler’s comments because the mayor’s seat is up for reelection in April and he had heard that Adler planned to create a stir as the campaign season grows near.
“He [Adler] continues to be a bitter man,” Stern said. “The city has moved on from that issue [2003 firings] and I hope that someday Adler does too.”
Adler laughed when told about Stern’s accusation that his statements were campaign-related and said he is no longer involved in Malibu politics.
Roney wrote in an e-mail to The Malibu Times that she was not currently involved in politics but rather working on finding a cure for a family disease. However, she wrote, “Malibu citizens could certainly understand if Stern and Barovsky followed their own previous logic and announced their resignations.”
Carrigan, who resigned as a planning commissioner in 2003 over what he said were politically motivated firings, declined to comment, but he did send a letter to The Malibu Times regarding the matter saying the situation was ironic.
The Court of Appeal panel’s decision may not be the final say on whether the council violated the Brown Act. The council voted during the closed session portion of its Sept. 26 meeting to seek a rehearing from the Court of Appeal. Barovsky said she might be inclined to support petitioning the state Supreme Court to hear the matter. She said the fact that the Court of Appeal panel and a Los Angeles Superior Court judge had differing opinions proved further review could lead to a conclusion different from the panel.
Barovsky also said the split decision between the courts was another difference between the council’s Brown Act violation and the allegation involving the Planning Commission. When told no court ruled on the alleged Planning Commission violation and the only legal minds to publicly say the commissioners violated the Brown Act were Hogin and Stern (who has a law degree), Barovsky said she had a recollection a document was issued confirming the commission committed the violation. The Malibu Times is unaware of any such document.
Last year, an independent review by two attorneys hired by Adler concluded the Planning Commission had not violated the Brown Act. Hogin said their review misinterpreted the Brown Act.
Another Brown Act violation?
Adler further accused Barovsky of violating the Brown Act on Sunday when she hosted a meeting at her home with several members of various city commissions to discuss Chili Cook-Off site purchase fundraising. The Brown Act prohibits more than two persons of a five-member governing body from meeting on a city issue without public notice and the ability for residents to attend the session. At least three members from the Planning Commission were at Barovsky’s house.
Barovsky said she had run the issue by Hogin, who said it was fine as long as the conversation was limited to fundraising. Barovsky said that was the only issue discussed. Planning Commission Vice Chair Carol Randall and Planning Commissioner John Sibert said Barovsky’s story was true.
Adler said even if the meeting did not violate the Brown Act, it had the appearance of doing so. And he said Hogin told him at a meeting several years ago that even the appearance of a violation should best be avoided.
Adler said, “If anything else, it [Barovsky’s meeting] was poor judgment on the heels of the Court of Appeal decision.”