POMONA — City Council members may have grown accustomed to being berated by C. L. (Clay) Bryant at meetings, but some are saying the contentious councilman went too far when he put his invective in writing.
At issue is a sign hanging in Bryant's City Hall office that reads: "If you want to buy a councilman try the other end of the hall."
Down the hall from the office Bryant shares with Councilwoman Nell Soto is the one used by Councilmen E. J. (Jay) Gaulding and Mark Nymeyer, both of whom say they are not for sale. Gaulding, for one, does not take kindly to Bryant's office decoration, calling it "an abomination."
"I think it's a nasty thing," Gaulding said. "It's defamatory to all council people. . . . He has no evidence of any kind of a bribe at all."
Nymeyer said he is not fazed by the sign.
"That's the kind of stuff you'd find in a college dormitory," Nymeyer said. "If he wants to blow the sign up so that it's 60 times bigger and plaster it all over his office, I wouldn't mind."
Opinions differ as to the intended target of the sign, which Bryant has had taped to a refrigerator next to his desk for more than a month.
Gaulding said he believes that the sign refers to an incident earlier this year in which he was seemingly offered a bribe by a man claiming to represent the owner of a store that was condemned as unsafe by city code enforcement officers.
"He said, 'How about a donation?,' " Gaulding said. "I said, 'Keep on talking and you're going to go to jail.' . . . (Bryant) has insinuated twice to me that I took a bribe."
Nymeyer, however, said he originally thought that the sign was directed at him after he did not provide the swing vote on Bryant's measure to allow a second ambulance company to operate in Pomona. Nymeyer acknowledges that Cole-Schaefer, the firm that has the exclusive right to provide emergency ambulance service in the city, contributed $200 to his 1987 reelection campaign.
"If there's anybody on the council who can be bought off for $200, they're weak," Nymeyer said. "That (amount) is insignificant."
Bryant said the sign is simply "an in-house joke," adding that he found it especially humorous that Gaulding and Nymeyer believed that the sign was directed at themselves. "Maybe that sign has picked the scab off something, I don't know," he said.
Bryant stressed that the sign does not suggest Nymeyer and Gaulding may be bought but merely alerts would-be bribers that he and Soto are not interested in such offers.
"It saves a lot of . . . embarrassment because I'd throw (someone who offered him a bribe) out of my office," Bryant said. "It doesn't mean that they can go down and bribe Nymeyer."
Regardless of the sign's intent, Mayor Donna Smith has made it clear that she wants it removed. Smith raised the issue at a City Council meeting last week and has asked City Atty. Patrick Sampson to explore whether the city has the authority to order Bryant to remove the sign.
"A joke is a joke, but I think it's gone too far," Smith said. "I really just feel that the sign is in bad taste and it should come down. . . . I don't think it's a good message for the city. I don't think it speaks well for anyone on the council, and I really don't think it speaks well for Mr. Bryant."
Sampson refused to comment, saying he had not determined whether the city can force Bryant to remove the sign.
Although Smith criticized Bryant at the council meeting for posting the sign where it can be seen by City Hall visitors, Bryant said the mayor has not spoken to him personally about the matter.
"No, she hasn't said anything to me--she wouldn't dare," Bryant said. "It's none of her damn business."
Bryant added he has no intention of removing the sign. "Hell no," he said. "There's no reason to take that sign down. It still applies. Ain't no one gonna buy off no councilman in that office."
Nymeyer suggested that Bryant will continue to display the sign as long as it aggravates his opponents on the council. "He knows it affects Donna, he knows it affects Jay and that's why he does it," Nymeyer said.