SOUTH PASADENA — It was a vintage Robert Wagner performance, complete with a vitriolic attack on the city's "good ol' boys." As his final act as an elected official, the controversial former city councilman read a statement assailing the city manager, a local weekly newspaper and the city's political Establishment.
"South Pasadena politics has been dominated by the 'good ol' boys' and poorly informed by the South Pasadena Review for the past 18 years," Wagner said at last week's swearing-in ceremonies for the two City Council members who replaced him and Lee Prentiss. Both Wagner and Prentiss chose not to run for second four-year terms in the April 12 election.
The South Pasadena Review wrote about him 137 times during his four years in office without once interviewing him, charged Wagner, whose avowed fiscal conservatism and acrimonious style dominated public attention in the city since he was elected in 1984.
And City Manager John Bernardi has "absolute authority to dominate and harass city employees" while he pursues policies that are wasteful, Wagner charged.
Bernardi would not comment on Wagner's remarks.
'On the Outs'
Review Editor George Kenney said he and his staff had "talked to (Wagner) by the hour" until the councilman sought to misrepresent the newspaper as endorsing him during the 1984 campaign. "Ever since then, we've been on the outs," Kenney said.
Newly elected City Council members Evelyn Fierro and Joseph Crosby assumed their positions at the regularly scheduled council meeting Wednesday, when the five-member council selected James Woollacott to serve as mayor for the next year.
At the swearing-in ceremony, Wagner also read from a letter from the California Fair Political Practices Commission saying that charges of conflict of interest brought by his political enemies were unfounded.
The commission found only that, because of his interest in a South Pasadena shopping center, Wagner may have acted improperly in stepping down from the council dais at two meetings last year to speak in favor of a ban on mini-malls in the city.
In an interview Thursday, Wagner said: "I would step down again, if necessary, to oppose mini-malls in South Pasadena, because of the blight that mini-malls impose."
The man who filed the complaint about Wagner with the commission was attorney Robert Weaver, who is active in South Pasadena civic affairs. Weaver said of the ruling: "It's not for me to second-guess the laws they (the commission) are enforcing."