AZUSA — An attempt by Azusa Mayor Eugene Moses to force Lloyd Wood, who serves as city administrator and police chief, to give up one of the jobs has been rebuffed by city councilmen, who say the mayor is pulling a power play at City Hall.
Councilmen Bruce Latta, James Cook and Lucio Cruz walked out on last week's council meeting after a heated argument with the mayor over his effort to change Wood's job.
The dispute began in closed session and continued into the public meeting that followed. When Moses tried to make a statement, the three council members tried to adjourn the meeting. They maintained that it is improper and illegal to discuss personnel matters in public.
Councilmen Walk Out
Moses refused to call for a vote on the adjournment motion. The three council members would not let him speak and the meeting ended in disarray when they walked out.
The fourth council member, Jenny Avila, who was elected in April, did not enter into the argument or walk out and after the meeting had no comment on the political conflict.
But the three other council members said that Moses, who was elected by voters this year to his third two-year term as mayor, is trying to run the city by himself.
They asserted that he has meddled in the operations of the city, rearranged staff priorities and spread misinformation.
In interviews last week, Latta said the mayor is "running amok" and Cook said, "Basically, the man thinks he runs the city without having to answer to anyone."
Latta said he is drawing up a list of actions he will ask the council to take to restrict the mayor's activities.
He said he will ask the council to make the mayor's City Hall office available to all council members and to curtail the mayor's use of city staff to prepare speeches, proclamations, letters and plaques.
Moses said he endured verbal abuse from council members at last week's meeting.
'They Called Me Khomeni'
"They called me Khomeini. They called me Kadafi," he said. "They said I'm a dictator, that they don't know what I'm doing."
Ironically, the mayor's proposal to split the job of city administrator and police chief was advocated by Latta and Cruz earlier this year.
But Cruz said he thinks that now is a bad time for an administrative change because the city is in the middle of extensive redevelopment efforts.
And Latta said the mayor just wants to get Wood out of the way. "He's looking for a yes man so he can run the city," Latta said.
Wood has been police chief for five years and became city administrator three years ago. He took the top administrative position on an interim basis but then was given a five-year contract that has more than two years remaining. He earns $85,000 a year.
Wood said he is "taking the position of no comment" in the current dispute, adding that anything he could say would displease one side or the other.
But, he said, he has always told the council that if he is asked to choose one job, he will elect to return full-time to the Police Department because of the pension benefits, Civil Service protection and his belief that the job of city administrator is too insecure.
Moses said he does not care which job Wood handles but that he should not try to do both. He said the city is growing and needs both a full-time police chief and a full-time administrator.
Moses said Wood has done well and his skills as an administrator helped straighten out the city three years ago.
He described Wood as "a militant," meaning, he said, that Wood "goes strictly by the book 100%, taking orders to the point where there is no bending and flexibility."
The mayor and Wood clashed recently over the mayor's desire to promote librarian Miguel Alaniz to department head status, instead of having him report to the finance director. Moses said that Azusa is 55% Latino and should have a Latino on its top staff and that Alaniz, by all reports, has done an outstanding job with the library.
Alaniz said he never talked to the mayor about the issue, never sought a promotion and merely wrote a recommendation to his superiors suggesting that the library become a separate department.
He said the library was placed under the finance director in 1984 as part of an effort to create "super" departments to streamline management, but he thought the arrangement merely added a layer of bureaucracy between the library and the city administrator.
He said he was only making a suggestion and considers the issue "a tempest in a teapot."
Moses said the most recent council meeting ended in a shouting match because he was about to expose the fact that Latta and Cruz had flip-flopped on the issue of whether the job of police chief and administrator should be combined.
Cruz, Latta and Cook said that Wood is caught in a power play by the mayor, who they said is trying to usurp authority.