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3 Colleagues Vote to Curb Authority of Azusa Mayor

December 04, 1986|MIKE WARD | Times Staff Writer

AZUSA — Two weeks after walking out of a City Council meeting to silence Mayor Eugene Moses, three city councilmen have pushed through a resolution that directs the mayor to share his City Hall office with them, forbids him to use a city car or give away city medallions and takes other steps to curb his authority.

"Everything they're doing is trying to cripple me," Moses complained. "They have taken all the mayor's powers away."

But, Moses said, "they aren't going to stop me."

Will Keep Pledge

He said he campaigned with the promise that he would devote full time to the job of mayor and he intends to keep that pledge.

The resolution, adopted Monday night on a 3-2 vote with Moses and Councilman Jennie Avila dissenting, lists 23 items under the heading "standard operating procedures for City Council members."

Councilman Bruce Latta, who submitted the resolution, said most of the items apply to all council members, not just the mayor, but it is the mayor's behavior that prompted the action.

"He has abused everything on the list," Latta said.

Stay Out of Refrigerator

The resolution instructs the mayor to inform the audience at council meetings that heckling will not be tolerated, forbids staff members from writing speeches for council members without council approval, transfers the power to appoint commission and board members from the mayor to the entire council and instructs council members to "stay out of the employees' refrigerator at City Hall unless you have brought food."

It also prevents the mayor from issuing proclamations or plaques without council approval, requires the city staff to share with all council members any information given to individual members and stops city employees from writing letters for council members without approval of the full council.

Latta said the ban on use of the employee refrigerator was imposed because of employee complaints that the mayor took their food.

Moses said he has only helped himself and visitors to soft drinks bought by the city with petty cash.

Moses said he writes his own speeches and that any letters prepared by the city staff involve city business. But Latta said city files are full of letters that should not have been prepared on city staff time.

Boisterous Friends

The mayor said he sometimes uses a city car, but it is available to other councilmen as well as the city staff.

Latta said the mayor has embarrassed the city by bringing loud, boisterous friends to meetings involving other cities. The resolution declares that "the only guests of council members at city business meetings, bond closings, conventions, dinners, etc., shall be the council member's significant other," such as a spouse.

Moses, who dislikes air travel, said he sometimes invites friends to accompany him to out-of-town events so that they can share the driving, and that he sees nothing improper in that.

Councilwoman Avila, joking that she would rather bring her husband than a "significant other" to city meetings, voted against the resolution. She said she thought council members should work out their differences face-to-face rather than airing problems in the press.

Latta said Moses will not accept the fact that his legal authority is no greater than that of any other council member.

Policy-Setting Job

Latta said Azusa has a city administrator to oversee its operations and it is the job of the council, including the mayor, to set policy, not direct the city's day-to-day business.

He said Moses "actually thinks he's the executive branch and the council is the legislative branch. A case in point: About a year ago he asked (City Atty.) Peter Thorson to research and come up with a way that would give him veto power over the City Council, which is the most asinine thing I've ever heard of in my life."

Two weeks ago, Councilmen Jim Cook, Lucio Cruz and Latta walked out of the council meeting to prevent Moses from discussing his desire to force Lloyd Wood, who serves as both city administrator and police chief, to give up one of his jobs.

The council members said they were upset that Moses told Wood and others in the community before the meeting that Wood would be replaced. Latta said this was another example of the mayor exceeding his authority.

Mayor Elected at Large

In Azusa, voters elect the mayor to a two-year term and elect four council members to four-year terms. The mayor's only authority beyond that of other council members is to preside at council meetings and to act as the ceremonial head of the city, Latta said, quoting from a handbook issued by the League of California Cities.

But, Latta said, Moses has made what is a part-time position into a full-time job and spends his day interrupting work schedules at City Hall, spreading misinformation among the public and handing out plaques and medallions.

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