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Tanenbaum, Salter Renew Feud in YMCA Deficit Talks

March 17, 1994|G. JEANETTE AVENT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The longstanding rivalry between Beverly Hills Mayor Maxwell Salter and Councilman Robert K. Tanenbaum resurfaced with surprising ferocity this week, during a council review of the Beverly Hills Family Y's financial troubles.

In a meeting Tuesday, Salter blasted Tanenbaum, who chairs the Y's volunteer board of directors, for glossing over the deficit facing the organization, which since 1987 has received about $226,000 in city funds. At one point, he compared Tanenbaum's handling of the Y's problems to President Clinton's handling of the Whitewater controversy, saying: "Slick Willie has nothing on you."

Tanenbaum immediately referred to a failed thrift for which Salter once served as a board member, saying: "What about your role with Unity Savings?" Tanenbaum charged that the thrift, Beverly Hills Unity Savings & Loan, lost money while Salter was on the board. The thrift was seized by federal regulators in February, 1991.

Tuesday's clash marked the end of a years-long truce maintained by Salter, the owner of a discount clothing chain, and Tanenbaum, a trial lawyer. The two became rivals soon after they joined the council in 1986, but they put their personal differences aside to focus on council business.

In their last major collision, in 1987, Tanenbaum called Salter "an intellectual and moral cretin," and Salter responded that he would never hold a conversation with Tanenbaum unless a third person were present.

Tuesday's animosity comes less than a month before the city's April 12 election, in which Tanenbaum is seeking a third term. Salter has refused to seek a third term because of his support of term limits, he said.

Tuesday's dispute stunned Salter's and Tanenbaum's council colleagues.

Vice Mayor Vicki Reynolds said the "unpleasant" exchange detracted from the business at hand--a discussion of the Y's financial situation. The Y, at 9930 Santa Monica Blvd., received $37,500 from the city last year, and must submit a request in June to have the grant renewed.

Last month the council appointed Salter and Reynolds to review a report prepared by a YMCA fact-finding committee on Y finances.

On Tuesday, Salter said he was concerned about the committee's claim that the Y's finances are in good order. He said records show the Y has incurred operating losses totaling more than $600,000 since 1989 and owes back taxes to the state.

Tanenbaum said he saw a "totally different reality" from the report. Charities have been very hard hit by the recession and he called it "almost miraculous" that the Y remains open.

Despite the outburst Tuesday, a majority of council members expressed support for the Y. They urged the Y's board to draft a new financial plan and begin reducing its debt by June.

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