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Sparks Fly at Los Alamitos Council Meeting

Mayor Troy Edgar accuses a councilman of "bullying the staff." Councilwoman Gerri Graham-Mejia says the mayor is the "biggest bully" she's ever encountered.

Although it was a shorter-than-usual City Council meeting, there was still plenty of conflict to go around Monday night.

A councilman grilled the city attorney for allegedly creating her own projects to bill the city for, the mayor countered that the councilman was “bullying the staff” and a councilwoman fired back that the mayor was the “biggest bully” she had ever seen.

At issue: Should the city code be changed so three votes are required to skip the full reading of proposed laws, rather than requiring a unanimous vote to skip?

To some council members and public speakers, the item was a sign that the council majority – Mayor Troy Edgar, Mayor Pro Tem Marilynn Poe and Councilman Ken Stephens – were trying to remove a right of the minority (Councilman Warren Kusumoto and Councilwoman Gerri Graham-Mejia) to have the full text of laws read.

Council members eventually voted 3-2 to reject the proposed change but only after a contentious discussion.

Graham-Mejia said keeping the law as is allowed fairness to both the minority and majority. She said the majority was trying to squeeze out the minority.

“This is your majority at work,” Graham Mejia said. “I personally have a sick feeling in my stomach for the behavior here tonight.”

In conrast, Poe said she felt the three-vote requirement would make council meetings more efficient.

“It is cumbersome to read all the words in the ordinance,” Poe said. “I read this (item), and I didn’t see any problem."

Poe said she felt the disagreements over the item were “really silly.”

“This kind of thing just shouldn’t happen we’re here to do the business, not nitpick about these kind of things.”

In the past, the Los Alamitos council has been divided 3 to 2 on many issues.

Kusumoto questioned City Attorney Sandra Levin about why she put the item on the agenda, and why she hadn’t done something similar when she was a councilmember on the Culver City City Council.

“You’re not over there,” Kusumoto said, “You’re not there as a citizen fixing that code.”

Kusumoto accused Levin of creating work to bill the city. “You took it on yourself to bill us for time to create a report to change our ordinance,” Kusumoto said.  

Levin responded that she had asked the city manager if this was something she should look into and the city manager OKed it.

Edgar said he didn't "really appreciate (Kusumoto) bullying the staff.”

“If you don’t agree with this just vote 'No,'” Edgar said. “There’s no need to take on the staff.”

Graham-Mejia said she found it “funny” that Edgar accused Kusumoto of being a bully.

“You are the biggest bully I have ever seen,” Graham-Mejia told Edgar

During public comments, Dave Emerson, owner of the Let’s Fix Los Al Blog, said he felt this was a way for the majority to "disenfranchise" the minority.

“This further divides our community, and you guys should be able to find common ground,” Emerson said.

City Council candidate Richard Murphy said he supported keeping the code the way it was.

“If they feel strongly enough for the reading, I think they should be granted that option,” Murphy said.

The final vote was 3-2, with Graham-Mejia, Kusumoto and Stephens in favor and Poe and Edgar casting dissenting votes. 

TELL US WHAT YOU THINK IN THE COMMENTS?

What do you think this issue means to the people of Los Alamitos?

met00 October 16, 2012 at 07:56 PM
So, what really happened? First thing to remember is that Roberts Rules Of Order are to be followed by the City Council. 1) The item came up from the agenda 2) Warren took first shot at discussion 3) Warren asked how the item was even considered for the agenda to the City Attorney 4) The City Attorney responded that she approached the City Manager and suggested that the item be considered and that the City Manager said she should do so. 5) Warren made a motion to kill the item and questioned why it was even considered 6) Gerri seconded Warren's motion 7) Warren called for the question Now at this point we have a motion, a second and a call to vote on the motion by the person who had the floor. Roberts Rules Of Order now specify that the motion should be voted on without any further discussion. The City of Los Alamitos Municipal Code stipulates that on any agenda item the public must be given a chance to speak. Proper procedure would have had the requirement of the Municipal Code override Roberts Rules. Troy should have opened the floor, allowed citizens to speak, close public comment and then moved to the vote without further discussion. But we in Los Alamitos actually appear to follow King Troy's rules of disorder. Troy Edgar did not follow procedure, close discussion, open the floor to citizens and bring it back for the vote. He just plain ignored Roberts Rules and continued discussion on the council as if there were no rules. Go King Edgar.
Art DeBolt October 17, 2012 at 01:00 AM
Just who was the driving force on this agenda item? Councilmember Geri Mejia asked the right question to the wrong person when she asked the city manager if she spoke to a councilmember about bringing the item forward. After watching a replay of the meeting, I can tell you it was not a councilmember who approached the City Manager. When Warren Kusumoto in his grilling of the city attorney told her,..."you took it upon yourself to bill us for time to create a report to make an un-needed change an ordinance.." She replied, "I took it on myself to ask the city manager if she wanted me to do this and then I took direction from the city manger." So Angie Avery was correct in saying that no city councilman approached her. It was the city attorney in her own words that approached Angie Avery about this and then "took direction from the city manager." The city attorney created the situation and manipulated the city manager into taking the heat. Warren was correct when he said to the city attorney you took it upon yourself to bill us for time to create a report for an uneeded change to an ordinance. The council should refuse to pay the bill for the attorney's time in this matter.
met00 October 17, 2012 at 07:34 AM
Mayor Pro Tem Marilynn Poe indicated that JM Ivler lied, but as reported by Art DeBolt above, it appears that JM Ivler didn't lie at all. Marilynn Poe owes JM Ivler one heck of an apology. Too bad she won't. In JM Ivler's public comment he stated that it must be nice to be able to create billings for yourself. That is EXACTLY what the City Attorney did. She went to the City Manager, stated there was a problem and asked the City Manager to let her work on her perceived problem and BILL THE CITY for it. "I took it on myself to ask the city manager if she wanted me to do this and then I took direction from the city manger." This is the same City Attorney who was instructed in January 17, 2012 to file the 9 page report she created on Warren Kusumoto's claimed Brown Act violations and couldn't find the 15 minutes since January 17, 2012 to actually write the cover letters to the District Attorney, Attorney General and the Grand Jury and send the 9 page report to them as she was instructed to do. Guess there are more billable hours in rewriting the City Code unnecessarily than in doing what you were instructed to do over six months ago. DeBolt's right. Refuse to pay the bill. In fact, at this point maybe the City Council should forensic audit all the billing to see just how many other times she has padded her bills with things that she "suggested" the City needs.

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