City Council Welcomes New Interim Assistant City Manager as Lisa Soghor Says Goodbye

This article was originally printed on January 10, 2022.

During the City Council Regular meeting on Monday, Jan. 10, affordable housing, an update on the city’s maintenance and repairs, and the announcement of the new Interim Assistant City Manager was introduced. The public also urged the city to release the investigation report against Council Member Bruce Silverstein.

One of the public speakers, Georgia Goldfarb, requested the city to release the report and move forward.

“We had paid for the investigation, and we would like to know the outcome,” Goldfarb said. “Since council members, Silverstein said all communications are in writing, and no action was taken against him, as I understand this, I assume that he was exonerated; however, I think it is important that we clear the air on the interactions and the conversations and not hide the proverbial smoke in the air.”

Alivia Jolly said she hopes she will receive support from the city council to enforce reducing the use of gas power leaf blowers and encourage additional patrols when they are being used. 

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“Just in terms of the noise, the pollution, there are health-related problems with the use of these gas blowers, so we really wanted to speak to that and additional support enforcing those not being used in Malibu,” Jolly said.

Another public speaker also requested to release the report against Silverstein.

“Where is the transparency?” Rosemary Ihde said. “I really urge you to open it up for public viewing, and then, whatever happens, we can make up our own minds.”

Speaker Jamie Francis Wendell said he hopes the city council passes the housing element resolution ordinance. Wendell said he hopes to move to Malibu for a safer environment and cleaner air quality, but that has been prevented due to the pricing.

“There is no affordability; when you go on-sites, it shows that the City of Malibu has zero affordable housing,” Wendell said. “I don’t understand the concept and feasibility when you have a Metro station access to places people who should be living in a beach home community should be at all income, not just multi-millionaires, and AirBNB that allow travelers to live in your city.”

According to the City of Malibu website, “​​the State of California Housing Element Law mandates that local governments adequately plan to meet the existing and projected housing needs of the community at all economic levels. The State also requires that Housing Elements be updated and certified every five years to reflect the most recent trends in demographics and employment that may affect existing and future housing demand and supply.”

Interim City Manager Steve McClay provided an update on the current state and county public health regulations, along with the consideration to resuming in-person meetings was pushed. 

McClay introduced the new Interim Assistant City Manager Ruthie Quinto, the current city treasurer, and the council said their goodbye to Lisa Soghor after almost six years.  

“Ruth has a stellar background, and I am very pleased to introduce her here to the city council,” McClay said. “Of course, with the warm welcome we are giving Ruth, unfortunately, we have to say our goodbye to Lisa Soghor, our current assistant city manager. Lisa, it has been a pleasure of mine to work with you these past eight months; your dedication to the job, your dedication to the employees, your ability to connect with the staff, as well as the public is amazing, you certainly made my job easier…so Lisa on my behalf I just want to thank you for everything you have done with the city.”

Soghor thanked McClay for the kind words and said it was an honor working with the rest of the staff for the past five and a half years.

“I just want to say I appreciate the opportunity I’ve had to serve this community and work with a truly outstanding staff at city hall,” Soghor said. “We have become a family over these past years, and I hope I have done everything I possibly can in this short time I have remaining.”

After Soghor shared her comments, Mayor Paul Grisanti opened the floor to the council to provide comments and updates. 

Council member Mikke Pierson addressed public speaker Wendell’s comment on the affordable housing crisis and said state mandates have made it difficult to govern these issues.

“You’re not wrong; it’s a tricky issue, tricky world, I don’t have all the answers, but we have actually tried to pass our housing element; it’s been returned for more details [and] more definition,” Pierson said. “It’s very tricky for a city like ours; yes there is a huge lack of affordable housing here, we’re aware of it, especially for people who work here, it’s just almost impossible.”

Pierson thanked Soghor for her time at city hall.

“I just want to say thank you as well to Lisa, it’s been amazing working with you, you’re an amazing professional, and I’m happy for your short commute, but I’m not happy for us,” Pierson said. “But at the same time, welcome Ruthie.”

Pierson also addressed to public comment regarding the report by stating, “there is some misinformation out there, we have not tried to block the report going out that is not what happened…at all, I wanted the report out from day one, and I am making a motion right now and hoping to get a consensus that we vote on releasing the HR report.”

Council member Karen Farrer chimed in right away and seconded the motion. 

City Attorney John Cotti informed the council that since it is not an agendized item, it would have to come back to the next meeting as an item on the agenda. 

Council member Steve Uhring said his farewell to Soghor and addressed public comments about releasing the report. He also hopes to release information that was discussed in closed sessions that depth with the harassment to the public.

“Lisa, we’re going to miss you, you’re going to miss us. I’m sorry to see you leave; it’s been a joy working with you; I wish you the very best; think about us every night and then, just for the heck of it.”

Uhring went on to say, “Mikke, if you would agree to add to your request that we take some of the information we got from lawyers during our closed session, session I would like to vote for that. I’d like to have that information made public because I think it displays the kind of discussions we’ve had,” Uhring said. 

Pierson agreed by stating, “I have no problem with that.” 

Council member Farrer addressed public comments on the housing element and thanked the Public Works Director, Rob DuBoux, and his staff for responding to the flooding on Dec. 30. 

“Affordable housing is something that Mikke Pierson and I in particular, have been working on since we got elected; it’s complicated; obviously our property values are very high here, we’ve been working with the community core of Santa Monica… but we’re still working on it,” Farrer said.

Council member Bruce Silverstein addressed the council and public comments regarding the report. 

“On Mar. 8, 2021, the following item appeared on the City Council Agenda, at the request of Mayor Pierson and Councilmember Farrer, consider whether to hire an outside firm to investigate the allegations of harassment contained in the Jan. 16, 2021 letter from Cannata, O’Toole, Fickes & Olson,” Silverstein began with. 

He continued, “I was recused from the decision on that item, but I publicly proclaimed that I did nothing unlawful or violative or any existing City Policy and that I was confident that an investigation by an independent employment lawyer would confirm that to be the case. The City Council voted to commission an investigation by an independent employment lawyer of the now-former City Manager’s claims that I engaged in gender-based discrimination in the form of harassment and/or creating a hostile work environment in violation of applicable state and federal laws and/or City of Malibu policies. The vote was 3-1, with Steve Uhring opposed.”

“When the [HR] report was first provided to me in July, I asked that the result of the investigation be publicly disclosed, I was told that doing so would violate the terms of the separation agreement with the now-former city manager [Reva Feldman], and I was told the report was privileged and could be disclosed only by a vote of the city council,” Silverstein said. 

“Tonight, multiple residents have called for the City Council to vote to release the report of the independent investigation. Because I was recused from the vote to conduct the investigation of the legality of my conduct, I will recuse myself from any vote on waiving privilege to release it,” Silverstein stated. “If the report is released, however, I am hopeful that it will be without redaction, and that the City Council also will waive privilege respecting any legal advice obtained the city’s lawyers prior to the time the City Council voted to commission the independent investigation of the legality of my conduct.”

After about fifteen minutes of Silverstein’s response to the report, the city attorney asked that he move to the next subject, which at that time he addressed public comment on affordable housing. 

“Jamie, I’m sorry I found those comments about our residents insulting, we’re not a town of only a bunch of millionaires, and I’m sure a lot of the people who are struggling to rebuild their homes that were burned in the fire would take substantial issue with that comment,” Silverstein said. 

Mayor Paul Grisanti followed Silverstein and thanked Soghor for all her dedication and hard work with the city, and welcomed Quinto on board.

City council discussed the adopted resolution in terminating the State of Local Emergency declared as a result of the risk of fires associated with individuals living unhoused and otherwise engaged in unpermitted and unregulated camping.

Farrer asked if this resolution could be revisited when it comes in season. Grisanti motioned to terminate the local emergency by adopting the resolution. Motion carries 3-2. 

To end the almost six-hour meeting, DuBoux gave an update on the current projects, the fiscal year of the 2021-2022 update, and disaster project updates that are in the process of being completed. 

The Planning Commission is scheduled to be on Monday, Jan. 18. The next City Council meeting is on Monday, Jan. 24. To watch the City Council meeting, visit youtu.be/K9HaHJTDicU

Samantha Bravo
Samantha Bravo
Samantha Bravo is an inspiring photojournalist based in Los Angeles California. She began her journalism career at Pierce College Media Arts Department. Twitter @samanthavbravo

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