ALHAMBRA — In a stormy meeting this week the City Council failed to approve Councilman Michael J. Messina's offer to resign if his wife, Barbara, is appointed as his replacement.
After listening to sometimes angry supporters and critics, the council tied 2 to 2 on the proposal, with Messina abstaining. A majority vote would have been necessary for passage.
Messina said he will continue to serve on the council until his term expires in November, 1986.
He submitted a conditional letter of resignation last month, saying that new responsibilities as head of real estate acquisition and development for the Lucky supermarket chain would require him to be out of the city frequently.
Councilmen J. Parker Williams and Talmage V. Burke favored Messina's proposal and Mayor Michael Blanco and Councilwoman Mary Louise Bunker opposed it.
Charter Allows Appointments
The city Charter provides that council vacancies be filled by council appointment, but no provisions are made for conditional resignations.
Messina, who said after the meeting that he represents a minority viewpoint on what he regards a pro-development council, said that he was upset by the council action but would serve out his term.
"I have no choice. I do have a lot of supporters who don't want me to walk away," Messina said.
During the emotionally charged meeting, at which more than 100 persons packed the council chambers, speakers clashed over whether the issue was Barbara Messina's qualifications for the council post or the contingency aspect of Messina's proposed resignation.
Messina's supporters stressed Barbara Messina's long record of community service, including her work with People Against Obscenity, a group that picketed for five years in a successful effort to close an adult bookstore in Alhambra.
Active in School District
She also has been active on the Alhambra School District's School Boundaries Committee and Alhambra Beautiful and received a community service award from the Knights of Columbus.
Many who favored Messina's conditional resignation agreed with resident Josephine Hernandez, who told the council that because Barbara Messina shares her husband's views on many positions, "I would still be represented on my initial vote (for Messina)."
Opponents attacked what they perceived as circumvention of the electoral process.
"Messina regards the seat as marital community property," said Mark Lockman, chairman of All We Can Afford, a citizens group that monitors Alhambra government.
"It's the ultimatum that we are really objecting to," said Terry Masl, who owns a small business in Alhambra.
"Had he resigned and nominated her, we would not have been nearly as upset," Masl said.
Burke said that of the 35 to 40 letters and calls he received on the issue, 80% favored the Messina proposal. "There was one issue and that was her qualifications."
Burke, who was appointed to his first council term in 1952, defended the practice of appointing some council members.
"The appointive system does work," he said.
Williams cited Barbara Messina's lengthy community service and said he voted for Messina's proposal because he believes "roots are important."
"It's too easy to get into positions of power. I want to see people who have roots here," Williams said.
Although both Blanco and Bunker said they hold Barbara Messina in high esteem, they stressed that it was not her qualifications that were at issue.
"The issue as I see it is that it was an inappropriate procedure," Bunker said. "In many ways it denigrates a position to not open it to public scrutiny and review," Bunker said.
"I don't feel that the crowd size here is indicative of public opinion," Blanco said.
Blanco added that only two of the approximately 20 telephone calls he received were from people who wanted Barbara Messina to take her husband's place. But both indicated that they were not comfortable with the procedure, Blanco said.
After the meeting, Messina said that politics played an important role in the votes by Blanco and Bunker against his proposal. Messina was unseated by a three-member slate in 1982 that included Blanco, Bunker and former Mayor Michael Rubino. In December, 1983, Messina replaced Rubino in a special election.
"This is evidence that the bond is still there," Messina said.
"I was trying to do something good for the city. I picked the person that I felt was best qualified to carry out my goals," Messina said.