Letter to the Editor: Burt Ross

Letter to the Editor: The Malibu Times

Dear Editor,

As the former mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, I witnessed political corruption firsthand. The chief of police frequently entertained members of organized crime in his office; a major drug trafficker was arrested and then miraculously let go; our tax collector hadn’t filed his income tax for over a decade; heads of departments did not show up for work, and so on.

Based on evidence of actual corruption, I got rid of the chief, the town judge, the tax collector, and two department heads. And when I was offered a $500,000 bribe by the mafia fronting for developers, I reported the bribe, wore a wire, testified in federal court, and six people were found guilty and served time. Fortunately, Fort Lee has not experienced this kind of corruption since I left office almost 50 years ago.

Clearly, I have no patience for public corruption, but I also have no patience for baseless accusations against honorable public servants. It is difficult for me to comprehend the loose and irresponsible charges of corruption by a few people in Malibu who will not rest until they unearth or fabricate some nefarious behavior by public officials.

Several years ago, outgoing City Councilmember Jefferson Wagner submitted an outrageous affidavit charging political corruption here in Malibu. The affidavit was based on nothing but hearsay, and his own recollection of being offered a bribe 10 years prior to his submitting the affidavit. He remembered everything about the bribe but somehow could not recall who tried to bribe him. Our city spent over $100,000 to have these charges investigated by a reputable law firm, which found no evidence of corruption, and in fact concluded that our city was well served by its public officials.

Now some local individuals who previously disparaged our public servants without cause are appearing once again to charge Skylar Peak, who has served our city with distinction, of a conflict of interest because Skylar did electrical work on a house he voted for while on the Council over four years ago. These people don’t seem to know what constitutes a conflict of interest. For one thing, this would not be a conflict of interest because of the intervening four years between Skylar’s vote and his doing electrical work on the home. But the fact that the ownership of the house has changed since Skylar’s vote makes the charges even more ludicrous. Our city attorney ruled that there was no conflict, but that does not stop those who wish to find corruption under every rock.

It is difficult enough to attract good people to volunteer for our boards and commissions, but when public servants are needlessly and irresponsibly attacked, it makes the task far more arduous. Those few people who insist on casting aspersions without any semblance of legitimate proof do a grave disservice to our community.

Burt Ross,