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Critics Hung Up Over Official's Car Phone

July 03, 1988|EDMUND NEWTON | Times Staff Writer

SAN GABRIEL — Mayor John Tapp thinks Vice Mayor Frank Blaszcak is dialing a wrong number.

The two, who were elected in April on a slate of slow-growth candidates endorsed by Citizens for Responsible Development, are engaged in a spat about whether the city should pick up the tab for a phone Blaszcak has installed in his car.

At its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, the council will decide what to do. Blaszcak, who works as a public affairs director for the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts, has billed the city $2,000 for the purchase and installation of a portable phone.

"I think it's an extraneous expense for an item that's for the personal convenience of a council member," Tapp said. Councilman Sabino Cici, the only holdover from the previous council, is also opposed to the expense.

Blaszcak insists that the phone is a necessity for him to conduct city affairs. "Initially I rejected the idea," he said. "But then I began to have second thoughts because of the number of calls I was getting and having to make related to city business." He said that his county employers would not allow him to use his business phone for calls that were not related to his job.

His car phone, for which he or the city must pay a $45-a-month access charge as well as 45 cents a minute for calls, is portable, so he can carry it with him from his car to his office. Tapp said he had checked with previous mayors whose terms date back to the early 1960s and could find no precedent for such an expense.

Tapp has also criticized Blaszcak for using a key to enter City Hall at night, when he has unwittingly set off burglar alarms in recent weeks. "We've never had a policy of councilmen owning keys," Tapp said. "We're supposed to be a policy-setting body, not operational people." No other council member has a key, Tapp said.

Blaszcak contended that, because of his schedule, he could only pick up his mail and other materials from City Hall at night. "The city manager's secretary gave me a key so I could come in and pick up the materials," he said.

Blaszcak said that there is "a growing rift between the mayor and the other council people."

"I think he (Tapp) sees himself as a strong mayor," Blaszcak said. "He doesn't realize the position is just ceremonial. He has unilaterally taken items off of the council agenda."

Blaszcak cited an item to consider establishing an architectural review committee on the agenda for the June 21 council meeting. "He unilaterally took it off the agenda," Blaszcak said. "It took the votes of the four other council members to put it back on. None of us knew why it wasn't there any longer after it was on the preliminary agenda."

Tapp, who contended that the city Planning Commission first had to consider the item, said that removing such items was the prerogative of any council member.

Councilman James Castaneda said that differences within the council were being blown out of proportion by people who "are resistant to change."

Castaneda, who supports Blaszcak's request for the portable telephone, said that such disagreements were related to "a personality thing," rather than to philosophical differences.

Councilman Ted Anderson could not be reached for comment.

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