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Failed Ouster, Censure Rip Norwalk City Hall

March 06, 1986|RALPH CIPRIANO | Times Staff Writer

NORWALK — With just a month remaining before city elections, a veteran City Council member has tried unsuccessfully to censure another councilman and fire the current city administrator.

While City Administrator Raymond Gibbs has apparently held onto his job at least through the April 8 elections, the council has agreed to evaluate Gibbs' status after the election.

Gibbs and Councilman Cecil Green engaged in a heated argument last Thursday over whether the council should publicly discuss censuring Councilman Lou Banas, according to City Hall sources. During the argument in Gibbs' office, sources said, the city administrator and Green stood toe-to-toe and shouted obscenities at each other that were overheard outside Gibbs' office. The argument was broken up by Councilman Bob White, who physically restrained Green.

Two days after that confrontation, the City Council met in a six-hour, closed-door meeting. Green--backed by White--sought to oust Gibbs, sources said. However, the council's other three members--Mayor Marcial (Rod) Rodriguez, Lou Banas and Margaret I. (Peg) Nelson--refused.

Evaluation Due in May

At the end of the Saturday meeting, council members released a brief statement that said they had conducted a "discussion regarding the evaluation of the city administrator's performance." In an interview, Rodriguez said that the evaluation of Gibbs is expected to be done in May, after the election.

Green, Banas and Rodriguez face reelection next month. Banas and Rodriguez were elected for the first time in 1982. Green has served since 1974.

During the Saturday meeting, the sources said, Green sought to censure Banas for giving activist Ed White--who has filed three lawsuits against the city--a copy of a letter concerning one of White's lawsuits. However, none of the other council members backed Green's call to censure Banas.

It was Green's desire to censure Banas that prompted the argument between Green and Gibbs, said City Hall sources. While Green wanted to discuss a possible censure of Banas at an open City Council meeting, Gibbs questioned whether it was wise to air the matter in public.

Rodriguez said in an interview that the matter involving Banas' disclosure of the letter had been resolved in the closed-door Saturday meeting.

Discussed Lawsuit

As a result of that private discussion, oral or written assurances will be made "to all parties concerned that there was a goof up," Rodriguez said. He declined to elaborate. The brief council statement issued after the Saturday meeting said the council had only discussed with its lawyers a suit against the city filed by Ed White.

Banas was accused of giving Ed White a copy of letter that was written in May, 1985, by lawyer Terry Sorensen. Sorensen was hired by the city to defend officials against two of three lawsuits filed by Ed White against the city and present and former city officials. The Sorensen letter was addressed to former City Administrator William H. Kraus, asking Kraus whether he was available to testify on behalf of the city in one of the three cases.

In a lawsuit filed in federal district court, Ed White claimed his civil rights were violated several times by city officials, including one 1979 incident where numerous police officers were summoned to a council meeting after White was ruled out of order.

In the federal lawsuit, White also charges his rights were violated in 1982, when he was evicted from a council meeting by a sheriff's deputy after he attempted to address the council. The lawsuit names as defendants the city, council members Green and Bob White and City Atty. Ken Brown.

In an interview, Banas admitted he gave the second page of Sorensen's two-page letter to Ed White. Banas declined to discuss the reasons for his action, saying the matter was part of the closed-door council meeting. Ed White said he got the letter from Banas sometime between August and October of last year.

Received Letter

Ed White said the second page of the letter he received from Banas contains a hand-printed note that criticizes White in defamatory terms. White said the note is signed with Kraus' name and dated May 10, 1985.

Kraus, now a candidate for City Council, could not be reached for comment.

Ed White this week filed legal papers to include the handwritten reply in a separate slander and libel case that he has filed in Norwalk Superior Court against Kraus.

Last month, a lawyer for Ed White subpoenaed the letter as evidence in a third case he filed in Los Angeles Superior Court against Kraus and the city, claiming that he has been denied access to public documents numerous times from 1973 until 1986.

According to City Hall sources, Green sought to discuss the possible censure of Banas by placing on the City Council agenda a letter from lawyer Ellen Pansky to the city's consortium insurance carrier, the Joint Powers Insurance Authority.

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