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Mayor Checks Into 4-Week Chemical Dependency Program : Manhattan Beach: An outburst at a council meeting precedes her announcement that she is getting help. Members praise her decision.

May 27, 1993|KIM KOWSKY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Manhattan Beach Mayor Connie Sieber checked into a four-week chemical dependency program last week, a day after she surprised council members by accusing them of not recognizing her authority.

In a statement she issued this week through city officials, Sieber, 50, said she entered the program at St. John's Hospital on May 19. She did not specify the nature of her dependency. But City Manager Bill Smith said Sieber is being treated for alcoholism.

Several council members said last week's council meeting was their first indication that Sieber, a flight attendant, had an alcohol problem. The May 18 meeting had been under way less than an hour when Sieber appeared to become upset that her colleagues had voted to discuss some consent calendar items out of their proper order.

She accused council members of not recognizing her authority and declared: "We're out of control, ladies and gentlemen. We're out of control."

Sieber then called a five-minute recess. During the break, she told her colleagues that she wasn't feeling well and wanted to go home. The council resumed its meeting without her. Councilman Steve Barnes later said he was bewildered by Sieber's behavior. "I can't for the life of me figure out what led to (her) pronouncement," he said. "It was bizarre."

Said Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Steve Napolitano: "What we now know is it was an illness, and it wasn't necessarily (that she was unhappy) with the way things were done that night." Napolitano will serve as mayor in Sieber's absence.

Council members are praising Sieber for acknowledging her problem publicly and seeking treatment.

"She's that kind of person," Councilman Dan Stern said. "She's really a leader and a brave one and it's not surprising that once she made that decision, that she would say, 'OK, I'm going to deal with it upfront.' "

Sieber's departure comes as the city approaches the end of its fiscal year scrambling to offset nearly $2 million in state funding cutbacks. The five-member council is scheduled to vote on its $32-million budget June 8.

Though Sieber's absence could leave council members deadlocked, which could cause some delays, council members said they fully support the mayor's decision to seek treatment immediately.

Said Napolitano: "Mayor Sieber is taking the correct steps, and really commendable steps, in having the courage to recognize that she needs some help."

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