POMONA — A proposal to hire an expert to improve relations among City Council members and the city administrator, molding them into a "high-performance team," was defeated by a bickering, divided council Tuesday night.
Councilwoman Nell Soto said she favors a team-building program but is unwilling to enter that process while the mayor is ridiculing the council's actions and a recall movement is under way against Councilman C. L. (Clay) Bryant.
Councilman Tomas Ursua, who has formed a council majority with Soto and Bryant since taking office in April, agreed, saying, "I am not participating in something like that when one of the council members is facing a recall."
Mayor Donna Smith and Councilman Mark Nymeyer voted to hire Results Management Inc. of Laguna Niguel for $3,000 to conduct a one-day workshop to develop teamwork among city officials. But the motion failed because Soto and Ursua voted against it and Bryant was absent.
In its written proposal, Results Management Inc. said that its workshop would help "participants discover and put into practice the skills for creating a high-performance team," drawing on concepts from coaches, such as Red Auerbach and John Wooden in basketball and George Allen in football.
Team-building proposals were solicited by the city after the Pomona Concerned Clergy and Lay Leaders, a group formed out of concern about the city's volatile political climate, urged council members to seek professional assistance to help them learn to work together.
Ursua said that when he was first elected, he thought a team-building session would be helpful but that he now believes it would be "a waste of money."
"We do have problems on the council," he said, "but at this stage, it is something that I believe time is more likely to resolve than somebody coming in and putting us through an exercise."
Soto said: "We can have 10 team-building sessions and nothing is going to happen as long as the ridicule and divisiveness continue."
She said the mayor should call for an end to the recall effort and try to pull the community together. Instead, she said, the mayor's husband recently wrote a letter, published in a local newspaper, that ridiculed the council.
Smith said she has no control over her husband's activities. "I don't tell him what to write. I don't tell him what to say. I don't tell him what to do," she said. "This is a free country, and he has a right to put pen to paper, put his thoughts down and have them printed."
Neither, the mayor said, does she have any control over the drive to recall Bryant. "I'm not involved in the recall," she said. "I am not an instigator of it. What Nell is saying is to call off the dogs, even though I haven't called them out.
"I am sad that council members don't want to get together and work for the good of the community."
'End Up Friends'
Smith said a team-building workshop could be very helpful.
"You might be surprised at the outcome," she told her colleagues. "We might all end up friends."